Every NBA team has that one guy who became a fan favorite for bruising physicality and a willingness to do whatever it took to protect their teammates.
In order to put together a comprehensive list of every NBA team’s greatest enforcer of all time, the question must first be asked: What exactly is an enforcer?
An NBA enforcer is a player whose impact on the game is felt in a very profound way by his mere presence on the court. The alpha-male who takes charge by any means necessary, usually by way of force, rage and intimidation. Extra gritty and a whole bunch of trash talking. Ready to fight and probably looking for one. The guys you never want to see checking in if you’re playing against them, and the same guys you always want on your side. They are loved by their’s and loathed by everybody else. They are a game-changing nuisance, relentless in their pursuit.
That’s an NBA enforcer. And this is every NBA team’s greatest enforcer of all time.
Detroit Pistons — Bill Laimbeer
Regarded by many as the dirtiest and most hated player in NBA history, it makes sense to start with Bill Laimbeer. He was the meanest head of the many-headed snake that was the 80’s Bad Boys Pistons, who reigned supreme as the most physical team during the league’s most physical era. The thing about Laimbeer wasn’t just that he loved to foul and violently agitate opponents. (He earned nicknames such as Captain Chaos, Counterfeit Bill, His Heinous and The Prince of Darkness.) It was that he LOVED how much he was hated for it. He was proud to be hated. His chest stayed puffed up. His head always held high. A sly and smirky smile topped off with a wink to somebody (everybody) in the crowd.
The other thing about Laimbeer was that he was a really good player beyond just the body slams and cheap shots, of which there were plenty: Laimbeer would swing his elbows like hammers at a hammer fight. But before stretch bigs became a necessity, the 6-foot-11 and 245-pound Laimbeer could step out and knock down his line-drive jumpers. He could get you 20 points and 20 boards. And he was seriously as durable as it gets. During the first 14 years of his career, Laimbeer never played less than 79 games in a season. That’s right: 14 years in a row of 79 games or more. He was an evil iron man who incessantly brought the smoke.