There are moments in the NBA that get pretty heated. That is what happens when adrenaline is at an all-time high with the best athletes facing off against each other. When the mood gets tense, referees have to blow the whistle to neutralize the situation. We call this the technical foul.
Some of the best players to ever play the game have been linked to technical fouls in their careers. For them, receiving a tech is as easy as a wide-open layup. Between physicality and trash talking, or a combination of both, these players have found a way to get the whistle blown in their directions.
These are the players who have racked up the most technical fouls in NBA history.
20. Draymond Green - 131
NBA career: 9 seasons (2012-present)
Teams: Golden State Warriors
Green is considered an annoying player when he is on the other team. He is a five-time All-Defensive selection, as well as a former Defensive Player of the Year. Since his arrival, he has led active players in technical fouls during the regular season. Green might have cost his team a championship in 2016. After hitting LeBron James in the groin in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, he was suspended for Game 5. The Warriors lost in seven games despite winning 73 games in the regular season.
19. DeMarcus Cousins - 137
Career: 11 seasons (2010-present)
Teams: Sacramento Kings (2010-17), New Orleans Pelicans (2017-18), Golden State Warriors (2018-19), Los Angeles Lakers (2019-20), Houston Rockets (2020-2021), Los Angeles Clippers (2021-present)
Cousins might go down as a talented player that let their potential go to waste. A four-time All-Star, Cousins spent a lot of time complaining as a member of the Sacramento Kings. His tenure was marred by ejections and technicals. Despite playing like an All-Star, the Kings never made the playoffs. Today, after two serious injuries, his career path is looking like a journeyman player.
18. Antoine Walker - 144
Career: 12 seasons (1996-2008)
Teams: Boston Celtics (1996-2003, 2005), Dallas Mavericks (2003-04), Atlanta Hawks (2004-05), Miami Heat (2005-07), Minnesota Timberwolves (2007-08)
During Walker’s career, NBA officials grew tired of him constantly complaining about calls that should have gone his way. There are a lot of red flags when it comes to Walker. When asked to lead a team, he rarely stepped up. Despite making over $100 million in the NBA, he filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Maybe, his reality wasn’t always what was going on in the present.
17. Jermaine O’Neal - 146
Career: 18 seasons (1996-2014)
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers (1996-2000), Indiana Pacers (2000-08), Toronto Raptors (2008-09), Miami Heat (2009-10), Boston Celtics (2010-12), Phoenix Suns (2012-13), Golden State Warriors (2013-14)
O’Neal was a product of jumping from high school to the NBA. After joining the Trail Blazers, he was able to learn how to get numerous technical fouls from his mentor, Rasheed Wallace, the all-time leader in ejections. O’Neal played a similar style of basketball to Wallace, which was borderline All-Star basketball skills, but All-NBA in receiving technical fouls.
16. Shaquille O’Neal - 150
Career: 19 seasons (1992-2011)
Teams: Orlando Magic (1992-96), Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004), Miami Heat (2004-08), Phoenix Suns (2008-09), Cleveland Cavaliers (2009-10), Boston Celtics (2010-11)
Should we be surprised that two members of Inside the NBA are on this list? What about the fact that two of these members have a friendly back-and-forth with each other on the show? Shaq has always been able to give players a hard time, even today on the television broadcast. Shaq had the size of someone that could be a bully. He let both his body and his mouth do a lot of the talking.
15. Carmelo Anthony - 156
Career: 18 seasons (2003-present)
Teams: Denver Nuggets (2003-11), New York Knicks (2011-17), Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-18), Houston Rockets (2018-19), Portland Trail Blazers (2019-present)
If you ask Carmelo Anthony about defense, he would tell you he hasn’t ever committed a foul in his life. He is constantly shrugging his shoulders questioning calls. Even at the age of 37, Anthony finds ways to question calls the officials make. While his scoring will go down as Hall of Fame worthy, he will always be docked for never playing in an NBA Finals.
14. Reggie Miller - 161
Career: 18 seasons (1987-2005)
Teams: Indiana Pacers
Can you imagine giving Spike Lee the choke sign in today’s world of the NBA? It’s surprising that Reggie Miller didn’t pick up more technical fouls in his career. He was a big-time trash talker and one of the most frustrating players to play against. His outside shot did most of the talking, but his mouth still found a way to land him on the top-20 list.
13. Kobe Bryant - 166
Career: 20 seasons (1996-2016)
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers
Bryant wanted to be a star every time he touched the court. He wasn’t shy about letting the officials know what was on his mind either, even at a very young age. Bryant’s mentality of having a “killer instinct” led to his tendencies of living in the heat of the moment. Sometimes, those moments led to him getting a technical foul.
12. Charles Oakley - 168
Career: 19 seasons (1985-2004)
Teams: Chicago Bulls (1985-88, 2001-02), New York Knicks (1988-98), Toronto Raptors (1999-2001), Washington Wizards (2002-03), Houston Rockets (2004)
Some consider Oakley the toughest player in NBA history. Oakley had to make a name for himself after entering the league out of NCAA Division II Virginia Union. Oakley started off as a protector to a young Michael Jordan. He grew up towards being an “enforcer” with the New York Knicks. All fans love Oakley to this day, even with his piled-up technical foul count.
11. Kevin Willis - 170
Career: 22 seasons (1984-2005, 2007)
Teams: Atlanta Hawks (1984-94, 2004-05), Miami Heat (1994-96), Golden State Warriors (1996), Houston Rockets (1996-98, 2001-02), Toronto Raptors (1998-2001), Denver Nuggets (2001), San Antonio Spurs (2002-04), Dallas Mavericks (2007)
If there is a player that has seen close to everything, it’s Kevin Willis. From the Bad Boys of the Detroit Pistons to physical play in the 90s, Willis stretched his playing career all the way to his 44th birthday. With time comes technical fouls, and Willis accumulated plenty over the years.
10. Kevin Garnett - 172
Career: 21 seasons (1995-2016)
Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves (1995-2007, 2014-16), Boston Celtics (2007-13), Brooklyn Nets (2013-15)
When Garnett came out of high school and went straight into the NBA, he found himself in an era where players threw punches every now and then. At the time, there were few consequences for this behavior and Garnett gained respect from his peers for standing his ground. After 21 years in the league, Garnett developed a reputation for toughness, trash talking, and not backing down, which led to many technical fouls.
9. Dwight Howard - 178
Career: 17 seasons (2004-present)
Teams: Orlando Magic (2004-12), Los Angeles Lakers (2012-13, 2019-present), Houston Rockets (2013-16), Atlanta Hawks (2016-17), Charlotte Hornets (2017-18), Washington Wizards (2018-19), Philadelphia 76ers (2020-present)
Howard has been talked about as a Hall of Famer for his grit as a true defensive player. He is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. With that said, Howard is a frustrating player to watch from a fan’s perspective for his persistent whining about calls. It’s no surprise that he is in the top-10 for this list.
8. Russell Westbrook - 183
Career: 13 seasons (2008-present)
Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-19), Houston Rockets (2019-20), Washington Wizards (2020-present)
Among active players in the NBA, Westbrook is the leader in this category. For a player that is as young as Westbrook, this is a high total. Westbrook only has one gear and that is playing hard, which is why he has averaged a triple-double in his career four times. However, the constant complaining about calls can be tough to watch, which is why he has received numerous technical fouls.
7. Anthony Mason - 192
Career: 14 seasons (1989-2003)
Teams: New Jersey Nets (1989-90), Denver Nuggets (1990-91), New York Knicks (1991-96), Charlotte Hornets (1996-2000), Miami Heat (2000-01), Milwaukee Bucks (2001-03)
Mason wasn’t scared of anyone, even the men that were clearly at a height advantage in the post. Mason was 6-foot-7and 250 pounds, but he guarded taller players for the majority of his career. With a high rate of success, you have to be a little bit tough if you play in the trenches. With that toughness comes technical fouls.
6. Dirk Nowitzki - 192
Career: 21 seasons (1998-2019)
Teams: Dallas Mavericks
We should give Nowitzki some grace for being on this list given that he played 21 seasons for the Mavericks and constructed 1,522 career regular-season games. That is the fourth most games ever played in the NBA. The Mavericks were never considered elite, yet Nowitzki managed to lead the team to a title in 2011.
5. Dennis Rodman - 212
Career: 14 seasons (1986-2000)
Teams: Detroit Pistons (1986-93), San Antonio Spurs (1993-95), Chicago Bulls (1995-98), Los Angeles Lakers (1999), Dallas Mavericks (2000)
Having Dennis Rodman on this list shouldn’t surprise anybody. Rodman made a career for himself by doing the dirty work. He played hard, physical, and went after every loose ball on the floor. At one point, he was the NBA’s face for bad behavior, on and off the court, for the last decade of his career.
4. Gary Payton - 250
Career: 17 seasons (1990-2007)
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics (1990-2003), Milwaukee Bucks (2003), Los Angeles Lakers (2003-04), Boston Celtics (2004-05), Miami Heat (2005-07)
Gary Payton was known as “The Glove,” but there is a very good case for his nickname really being “The Mouth.” Payton talked a lot of trash during his playing days, but sometimes his remarks were directed at the officials. Payton knew how to back up his talk as he was a former Defensive Player of the Year and a nine-time All-Star.
3. Rasheed Wallace - 317
Career: 16 seasons (1995-2010, 2012-13)
Teams: Washington Bullets (1995-96), Portland Trail Blazers (1996-2004), Atlanta Hawks (2004), Detroit Pistons (2004-09), Boston Celtics (2009-10), New York Knicks (2012-13)
Wallace was known as an enforcer for the teams he played with. Even during games, there would be times that his talents were unmatched for his attitude coming unglued. He had a way with words, including setting the single-season record with 41 technical fouls in 2001-2002. He is also the NBA career leader with 29 ejections.
2. Charles Barkley - 329
Career: 16 seasons (1984-2000)
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers (1984-92), Phoenix Suns (1992-96), Houston Rockets (1996-2000)
For fans that watch Inside the NBA, hearing some of the remarks Barkley makes on the regular makes it no surprise that he ranks near the top. Barkley recorded his technicals by hard fouls, arguments, and fighting. The 6-foot-4 power forward was scared of nobody. Watch his interactions with Shaq on TV and you will see that he hasn’t changed.
1. Karl Malone - 332
Career: 19 seasons (1985-2004)
Teams: Utah Jazz (1985-2003), Los Angeles Lakers (2003-04)
When you think of technical fouls, is the first player you think of Karl Malone? “The Mailman” isn’t anywhere close when it comes to career ejections, but Malone knew how to pick up the “T.” Malone played a very physical style of basketball that led to technical fouls, so it is fair to say that he had the sharpest elbows in the league’s history.