A few weeks ago, in response to Kobe Bryant's then-debilitating ankle injury and accusations that Dahntay Jones somehow committed a dirty play by cutting under him while he was still in the air, I listed the dirtiest players in the NBA. I tried to take a different look at it and list players that were "dirty" in a number of different ways. I looked at "complainers" and "floppers" as much as the players usually associated with the word (and I egregiously excluded Joakim Noah).
This has me thinking today about who are the dirtiest players in Magic history?
Before diving into things, let me define what I consider "dirty." There are a few things. First and foremost, a "dirty" player is one the opposing team hates playing against. These are the players that do their generous bending of the rules and test the boundaries of rules. Again, players that opponents hate playing against and do everything to get under their skin.
These are also players with a little bit of a mean streak, perhaps. They may not fill the stat sheet, but they are essential to a winning team.
Now, the Magic have an interesting and complicated relationship with players considered "dirty."
Rich DeVos has always stressed bringing quality players and quality people into the organization. I remember when Keon Clark was a free agent in 2002. At that time, Clark was seen as a rising young defender at center and the Magic were a team desperate for a center. He averaged 11.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in the season before free agency.
As the Magic were negotiating with him, Clark was arrested for drug possession and the Magic quickly pulled out of the running. It was a good basketball decision as Clark played only two more injury-riddled seasons and failed to live up to expectations. The drug arrest was cited as a key reason for the Magic cooling off on him. DeVos did not want to sign a player that would cause problems off the court.
The same concern arose when J.J. Redick was arrested for a DUI before the Draft.
There are, of course, exceptions. DeVos gave Shawn Kemp a second chance in Orlando after his weight and off-court issues. But largely, Magic history is devoid of any players one might call "mean guys" and so finding dirty players is tough.
I will attempt to do so though. Here are the five "dirtiest" players in Magic history by my strange standards:
Matt Barnes, 2009-10
Barnes played only one season in Orlando and quickly embodied the grit necessary to win a championship. And Magic fans loved him.
There were the shirts — Matt Barnes Will Kill You — the knife's edge attitude between emotion and grit that great defenders have to toe. Barnes was not a guy who was going to score a lot of point. His 3-point shooting needed improvement, but he could hit it. His defense though was what made him so difficult for opposing players to deal with.
He gave the 2010 Magic an attitude it had never quite had before. There were hiccups for sure, but teammates loved him.
It said something at the end of his time with the Magic that a player he sparred with — Kobe Bryant — wanted him on his team the following year.
Skiles was the Magic's original tough guy. A no-nonsense point guard who would take no frills from anybody.
He was always deadly serious and had the game to back it up. His 30-assist game was legendary (albeit against a gimmicky Paul Westhead offense that made Seven Seconds or Less look slow), but so was his penchant for mixing things up and defending his teammates.
Skiles was your sterotypical angry little guy. He would not back down from anybody.
Not even Shaquille O'Neal. The two were reported to come to blows in practice during O'Neal's rookie year when Skiles criticized the big man's work ethic. It takes a lot of courage to call out O'Neal, particularly when you are only 6-foot-1, 180 pounds.
Dwight Howard, 2004-2012
Howard was not incredibly dirty. He took a lot of hits that he did not deserve. But he also dished out a lot of punishment that went uncalled.
Some of Howard's screens would be legal in Europe, but probably were not legal in the NBA. He was a bit of a moving screener and he was not afraid to swing his elbows and use his size and strength to push players around. That is what you are supposed to do when you are a center in some respects. But he gets away with more than his share of physical play.
I mean, he injured Tony Battie, Jameer Nelson and Courtney Lee in practices and games in the same year. That was unintentional, of course.
What makes Howard, a "dirty" player in my mind, was the way he constantly complained when any little foul was called against him. He led the league in technical fouls for a reason and continued to pile them up more and more as his career went on. A lot of it was warranted. No player gets fouled as hard and as often as Howard. But at some point, he needed to shut up and play. The technical fouls were costing his team games.
Rafer Alston, 2009
The Magic picked up Alston after Jameer Nelson's injury in February 2009 and Alston very much saved that season, enabling the Magic to reach the NBA Finals.
Alston though proved to be a character.
The Eddie House slap was the most visible evidence. Alston though was not afraid to mix it up on other occasions. He was very much the Matt Barnes of that 2009 team, a completely necessary player for the Magic to find success that year.
Horace Grant, 1994-1999
Horace Grant was brought to Orlando in the summer of 1994 with one task in mind: space the floor and protect Shaquille O'Neal. This is how Grant cut his teeth in Chicago and became an All Star the year before.
Grant was not the most physically imposing guy, but he was a crafty defender and just a skilled player. He knew the right moments to pull out those "dirty" mid-90s defensive tricks and was a key component for that 1995 Finals run.
Have anyone else in Magic history you would like to nominate? Share them in the comments below or on Twitter by tweeting me @OMagicDaily or by using the hashtag #DirtyMagic.