Basketball will never be as physical or violent as hockey or football. But anyone who says that basketball isn’t a “contact sport” has never camped out under the rim trying to get a rebound, or taken a charge from someone driving through the lane. When you combine that with the NBA’s notorious culture of trash talking and the ultra-competitiveness of some of the world’s greatest athletes, it’s easy to understand why tempers sometimes flare.
We combed through the NBA stat book to find which players have been ejected from the most games. Unsurprisingly, most of these names are from the past two decades. The NBA used to be a more physical place, with officials rarely calling the same fouls — even technical fouls — that they do today. That means you won’t find players from 60s, 70s, or even the 80s on this list.
Some current players are ejected so often that they are already in the Top 15, and a few more are on the verge of breaking into it. Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka each have seve ejections apiece so far in their careers, and Golden State pest Draymond Green has six. It won’t take much more for them to crack this list.
Note: These ejections are either straight ejections for fighting, the result of two technical fouls, or the recently formed Flagrant-2 rule. None of these are a result of simply fouling out of a game.
Honorable Mentions – Kevin Garnett and Steve Francis – 8
Before we break into the “real” list, we wanted to give a shout out to two players who almost made the cut. From the moment he was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies (and then refused to play for them), it was obvious that Steve Francis would be a constant malcontent during his NBA career. He ended up playing for the Rockets, Magic, Knicks, and Rockets again, even making three All-Star teams. However, he never truly lived up to his No. 2 overall status, showing flashes of brilliance but remaining inconsistent for much of his career. The Magic even suspended him once for “conduct detrimental to the team.” It’s easy to see how he’d wind up with more ejections than average.
Garnett, on the other hand, is a true Hall of Famer. He was a 15-time All-Star and the 2004 MVP. After 12 seasons as the face the Minnesota Timberwolves, Garnett was traded to the Celtics and formed the original modern Big Three with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. They won an NBA championship in their first season together, finally giving Garnett the ring he had always coveted. Aside from his tremendous talent, though, Garnett was a notorious trash talker and often used his size and strength (6’11”, 240 pounds) to bully smaller players. He may have enjoyed the “star treatment” from referees, but he still managed to get thrown out of eight games in his career — including one playoff game.
15. Jermaine O’Neal – 9 Ejections
Speaking of KG, many people thought Jermaine O’Neal would be a slightly lesser version of the T-Wolves icon. He was roughly the same size and had many of the same skills. Unfortunately, O’Neal didn’t have the same work ethic or competitive spirit as Garnett. He signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Pacers in 2003. By the end of that deal, it looked pretty bad and O’Neal was traded to Toronto.
Over the course of his career, O’Neal was ejected from nine different games (eight regular season, one playoff game). It was often for arguing calls, as he picked up a staggering 160 technical fouls during his time in the NBA. He lasted less than a year in Toronto, and then bounced around with the Heat, Celtics, Suns, and Warriors before finally retiring in 2014.
14. Dwight Howard – 9 Ejections
We’ve arrive at the first of four active players on our list, with potential to move up a few spots before they retire. Dwight Howard is still just 32-years-old and on his fifth NBA team. The Charlotte Hornets big man can be dominant in the paint at times, but has a reputation for being a locker room cancer. There’s a reason teams don’t feel like keeping him around very long.
Howard has been tossed from nine games so far in his career, including two postseason games. He’s also racked up over 175 technical fouls and 19 flagrant fouls in his career. He seems to be getting more agitated as he ages too, since the majority of his flagrant fouls and ejections have happened in the last six seasons, as opposed to a pretty clean record in his first eight campaigns.
13. Tyson Chandler – 10 Ejections
Tyson Chandler managed to win an NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and is considered one of the most intimidating defensive players in the NBA — highlighted by winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 2012. The 35-year-old, who was still logging regular minutes with the Phoenix Suns in 2017-18, seems to have mellowed a bit as he ages. He’s only been ejected from a single game in the last four years, but has a career total of ten.
Chandler has played for six different teams so far in his career and even won a Gold medal with Team USA at the London 2012 Olympics. In that time, he’s piled up over 125 technical fouls in the NBA. Assuming he returns for the 2018-19 season, Chandler will have a chance to mouth off to a few more referees and maybe even get himself into the top ten of ejected players.
12. Carmelo Anthony – 10 Ejections
Honestly, we didn’t peg Carmelo Anthony as being the kind of guy who would end up on this list. But when you play over 15 years in the NBA, and almost half of that time for the dysfunctional New York Knicks, frustrations are bound to boil over. The former No. 3 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft (behind LeBron James and… Darko Milicic) has been thrown out of 10 games so far in his NBA career, including three in a single season during his final year with the Knicks.
When he’s not getting thrown out of games or amassing over 150 technical fouls, Anthony is a 10-time All-Star and won the NBA scoring title in 2013. Unfortunately, he’s never been the leader that teams were hoping to get. Scoring isn’t a problem for Carmelo, but being the focus of a team definitely is. A trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder ahead of the 2017-18 season meant that he could play second fiddle to Russell Westbrook. Or even third fiddle, since the Thunder also traded for Paul George. Anthony is still just 33-years-old, so he could find himself on the wrong end of a few more ejections before he eventually retires.
11. Antoine Walker – 10 Ejections
Antoine Walker is best remembered as a member of the Boston Celtics, where he played for eight seasons. He also had stints with the Mavericks, Hawks, Heat and Timberwolves, and even won an NBA title as a bit part of the Miami team that became champions in 2006. He cleaned up his act considerably though, since he didn’t pick up a single ejection in his final five seasons. Before that, though, he was a blistering pace to get into the top five of all-time ejections.
Walker had seven ejections in his first five seasons, but managed to get it under control. He finished his career with ten total ejections, including one in the playoffs, and an impressive total of 161 technical fouls. Unfortunately, his post-NBA life didn’t go very smoothly either. He battled with a major gambling addiction, resulting in serious money troubles. He declared bankruptcy in 2010 and even had to sell off his championship ring.
10. Paul Pierce – 10 Ejections
Forget about his time playing for the Nets, Wizards, and Clippers. Paul Pierce is a Boston Celtics legend, playing 15 seasons for the green and white, leading Beantown to an NBA championship 2008 (and picking up the Finals MVP award while he was at it). He was never thrown out of more than two games in any one season, but when you hang around the league for close to two decades, those ejections will eventually start to add up.
Pierce has 10 career ejections, including two in playoff games. In fact, only two players on this list have more postseason ejections, so that’s saying something. Surprisingly, Pierce only picked up 115 technical fouls in his entire career (and only eight flagrant fouls), which averages to about five per season. But in those moments where he showcased true rage over a bad call, he was sent to the showers early.
9. Shaquille O’Neal – 10 Ejections
Shaquille O’Neal was the most dominant big man in the NBA since the likes of Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. At 7’1″ and 325 pounds, there wasn’t much opposing defenses could do to stop him. As a result, Shaq produced a legendary career that features 15 All-Star appearances, a regular season MVP (2000), four NBA championships, and three Finals MVP awards. Plus a Rookie of the Year (1993), two NBA scoring titles (1995, 2000), and a host of All-NBA appointments.
About the only thing that could slow down O’Neal was the infamous “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy, since the big man was never better than about 50% from the foul line. Teams would hack, elbow, hold, and even bear hug O’Neal in an attempt to save points. Obviously, that got to be pretty frustrating and Shaq would lash out from time-to-time. O’Neal was tossed from ten games in his career, and is the proud owner of 171 technical fouls, plus 46 flagrants.
8. Stephen Jackson – 11 Ejections
Stephen Jackson took the extra long route to the NBA. Despite being drafted by the Suns in 1997, he couldn’t earn a spot on their roster. As a result, he played in the Continental Basketball Association and other foreign leagues until the year 2000, suiting up for teams like the La Crosse Bobcats, the Sydney Kings, Marinos de Oriente, the Fort Wayne Fury, and Pueblo Nuevo. Yeah, we had never heard of them either.
Jackson finally broke through with the New Jersey Nets in 2000, but bounced to a new team every year or two until he retired in 2014. He played for nine NBA teams in 14 years, but did get lucky enough to win a championship with the Spurs in 2003. He was also a member of the 2006-7 “We Believe” Golden State Warriors, who rode a late season surge to qualify for the playoffs as the eighth seed and then upset the top ranked Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
Jackson was ejected from 11 total games in his career and picked up 135 technical fouls in the process. That was just the kind of guy he was — the same kind who waded into the crowd to fight with fans during the Malice at the Palace, and the kind who fired off a gun after getting into a fight at a strip club.
7. Gary Payton – 11 Ejections
If you took a poll of NBA players, there’s a good chance that they would all agree that nobody talked trash like Gary Payton. The man known as “The Glove” for his excellent shutdown defense would say anything to get under an opponent’s skin, and often balanced right on the edge of going over the line with his words. His 278 career technical fouls are a perfect example of that, as they are the third most in NBA history.
His mouth managed to get him tossed from 11 career games, which is a number that we thought was surprisingly low, considering how much he yapped. Despite the ejections, Payton was an extremely talented player. He was an All-Star nine times, the Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, and even squeaked out an NBA championship ring with the Miami Heat in 2006 before he retired. He is the all-time leader in steals and made the All-Defensive First Team in nine straight seasons.
6. Ron Artest – 11 Ejections
Sorry, excuse us — Metta World Peace. The artist formally known as Ron Artest, before legally changing his name in 2011, was a pesky player made in the image of Dennis Rodman. He focused on defense and rebounding, got into other players’ heads, and even won an NBA title with the Lakers in 2010. Of course, he was also one of the primary combatants in the Malice at the Palace, so it’s not like he’s known for following the rules.
World Peace was thrown out of 11 career games, including three playoffs games (tied for the most postseason ejections of anyone on this list). Most of those ejections were a result of the 86 technical fouls or 24 flagrant fouls he earned himself over the years, including once famously elbowing James Harden in the head during a dunk celebration. His antics have seen World Peace be suspended by the NBA multiple times.
5. Matt Barnes – 12 Ejections
We’ve arrived at Matt Barnes, the man who drove almost 100 miles to throw fists with former teammate Derek Fisher, who was engaging in a budding romance with Barnes ex-wife. So it should come as no surprise that Barnes’ temper also saw him ejected from 12 games during his NBA career. He wasn’t a particularly talented scorer, but Barnes was a scrappy player known for defense and hustle plays. He even picked up a championship ring as a member of the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors.
Barnes was also dinged for 96 technical fouls and 32 flagrants in his 16 season career. He was definitely a bit of a head case, which is demonstrated by his constant changing of teams. He played for, in order, the Clippers, Kings, 76ers, Warriors, Suns, Magic, Lakers, Clippers (again), Grizzlies, Kings (again), and Warriors (again). He never managed to stay in one place for more than two or three years at a time, because coaches and teammates would inevitably get fed up with his distractions.
4. Reggie Miller – 12 Ejections
Reggie Miller is one of the greatest players in NBA history, and one of the best sharpshooters the game as ever seen. He was deadly from beyond the three-point arc and had a knack for coming up with huge shots in key moments. He was a five-time All-Star, had his number retired by the Indiana Pacers, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
Miller was never able to win an NBA title (mostly thanks to Michael Jordan and the Bulls), but that didn’t stop him from talking ungodly amounts of trash. Miller might have been the king of trash talk, and earned the techs to prove it — 175 over his entire career. Those technical fouls saw him tossed out of 12 different games. He was smart about it though, and was never ejected from a playoff game.
3. Kenyon Martin – 12 Ejections
Kenyon Martin had a consistent, if not spectacular, 15 season NBA career over five different teams (plus a brief stint with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers during the 2011 lockout). He was a reliable power forward, able to bring career averages of 12.3 points per game, 6.8 rebounds, and a couple assists or a blocked shot. However, he was a very physical player and often found himself in the thick of things during battles under the basket.
Martin was ejected 12 times in his career, to go along with 130 technical and 21 flagrant fouls. He was much better in the playoffs, though. He never hurt his team by getting thrown out of a playoff game, so that’s a plus. He retired in 2015, but joined Ice Cube’s Big3 league in 2017. Martin’s team, Trilogy, won the inaugural 3-on-3 league championship. No word on ejections from that league.
2. DeMarcus Cousins – 13 Ejections
DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins is the only player who could reasonably challenge for the No. 1 spot on this list. At just 27-years-old and through nine seasons in the NBA, Cousins has already been tossed out of 13 games and compiled 118 technical fouls. At this point, we think the referees are just looking for reasons to toss him. He’s never been tossed from a playoff game, but that’s a result of him never playing for a team that qualifies for the posts-season. Six frustrating seasons with the Sacremento Kings finally ended when he was traded to New Orleans in 2017.
The Pelicans would qualify for the playoffs in 2018, except Cousins himself tore his Achilles a few months before the season ended. Even in that abbreviated seasons, Cousins managed to get tossed twice and pick up 10 technical fouls — categories he often leads the league in. Even with his temper, Cousins is a terrific player. He averages a double-doubles (21.5 points, 11 rebounds) for his career and has been an All-Star four years in a row. Of course, he’s also been suspended for by his own team and the league for various incidents, including punching Patrick Beverly in 2014. Boogie can be great to watch, but he’ll definitely get closer to the No. 1 spot on this list before his career is over.
1. Rasheed Wallace – 29 Ejections
When it comes to being ejected from NBA games, one man stands miles above everyone else. Rasheed Wallace, best remembered for being a part of the dysfunctional “Portland Jail Blazers” and also for picking up an NBA championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, completely laps everyone else on this list. His 29 career ejections, including three in the postseason, are the most all-time. Over 18 seasons in the NBA, Wallace picked up an amazing 373 technical fouls (including playoffs).
Wallace is the all-time leader in techs and also the single season record holder (41 techs in the 2000-01 season). Wallace hated referees with an extra passion, constantly claiming they were biased against him. He was once suspended seven games for threatening a ref after the game near the arena loading docks. He was also ejected just 1:25 into a game once, in 2012, when he quipped “Ball don’t lie” after an opposing player missed the free throw from his first technical foul of the game. The ref tee’d him up again, creating one of his most memorable ejections.