Charles Barkley and Karl Malone own the two highest number of technical fouls in NBA history.
Photo by John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images (left), Photo by Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images (right)

A technical foul is, technically speaking, a difficult thing to define.

According to the NBA website, the gist of the matter comes down to two words: unsportsmanlike conduct. It’s a cumbersome term that can mean many things.

Taunting, staring at refs, excessive cursing and hard fouls all fall under technical fouls, more commonly known as techs. Whatever the infraction, techs result in a free throw and possession for the opposing team.

Despite the obvious drawbacks of technical fouls, some players just can’t get enough of them. From least to most, here are the 10 professional basketball players with the most technical fouls in NBA history, playoffs and regular season included.

The Most Technical Fouls in NBA History

10. Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett celebrates during the 2014 NBA playoffs.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Number: 172

Seasons and Teams: 14 seasons Minnesota Timberwolves, 6 seasons Boston Celtics, 2 seasons Brooklyn Nets

Career Highlights: Hall of Famer, 1x NBA champion, 15x All-Star

Garnett’s trash talk is so legendary that every young center from the era has a Meeting Kevin Garnett story. When KG met fellow trash talker Joakim Noah, it changed the young Noah’s career path indefinitely. Every single season of KG’s career is filled with stories like that, and many of them are not nice at all.

9. Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard looks on during a 2019 Los Angeles Lakers game.
Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

Number: 178 (and counting)

Seasons and Teams: 8 seasons Orlando Magic, 3 seasons Houston Rockets, 3 seasons (2 stints) Los Angeles Lakers, 1 season with Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards


Career Highlights: 8x All-Star, 1x NBA Champion

Dwight Howard is the first active player to make the list and both are on the Lakers. Howard has profited from a topsy-turvy career. He was once superman but has lived long enough to become a league villain.

8. Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook talks to a referee during a 2022 Los Angeles Lakers game
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Number: 183 (and counting)

Seasons and Teams: 11 seasons Oklahoma City Thunder, 1 season Washington Wizard, 1 season Houston Rockets, 1 season Los Angeles Lakers

Career Highlights: 9x All-Star

Russell Westbrook is one of the most divisive players in the league today and in league history. From his hard-nosed, high-intensity playing style to his off-the-court fashion, Westbrook is one eclectic and electric dude.

7. Anthony Mason

Anthony Mason paces the floor of a 1990 New Jersey Nets game.
Photo by Tim Defrisco /Getty Images

Number: 192

Seasons and Teams: 5 seasons New York Knicks, 3 seasons Charlotte Hornets, 2 seasons Milwaukee Bucks, 1 season Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets

Career Highlights: 1x All-Star

The late Anthony Mason averaged over 10 points and eight rebounds per game over a 13-year career in the NBA. He retired in 2003 as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.

6. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki reacts after scoring a basket during a 2019 Dallas Mavericks game.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Number: 192

Seasons and Teams: 21 seasons Dallas Mavericks


Career Highlights: 14x All-Star, 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP

Though drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998, Dirk Nowitzki didn’t make his NBA debut till 1999, and for the team the scorer would forever be associated with — Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks.

5. Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman leans on the scorer's table in game four of the NBA Finals
Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

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Number: 212

Seasons and Teams: 7 seasons Detroit Pistons, 3 seasons Chicago Bulls, 2 seasons San Antonio Spurs, 1 season Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks

Career Highlights: Hall of Famer, 2x All-Star, 5x NBA Champion

Dennis Rodman is known as much for his off-the-court record as he is for his stellar on-the-court performances. The center kept it weird for most of his career, though he was oddly normal while a member of the Detroit Bad Boys. Even then, Rodman rarely backed down from a hard foul or altercation.

4. Gary Payton

Gary Payton looks on during a 2001 Seattle Supersonics Game
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Number: 250

Seasons and Teams: 13 seasons Seattle SuperSonics, 2 seasons Miami Heat, 1 season Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks

Career Highlights: Hall of Famer, 9x All-Star, 1x NBA Champion

Father of Golden State Warrior Gary Payton II, Gary Payton had an incredible NBA career, mostly with the sadly defunct Seattle Sonics. The point guard won his championship with Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and the Miami Heat in 2006.


3. Rasheed Wallace

Rasheed Wallace Puts his Hands on his hips during 2008 Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Number: 317

Seasons and Teams: 8 seasons Portland Trailblazers, 6 seasons Detroit Pistons, 1 season Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks

Career Highlights: 4x All-Star, 1x NBA Champion

Rasheed Wallace, who also goes by Sheed, Roscoe and Dirty Thirty, was known for being an exceptional talent with a matching temper. Only a man with the four-time All-Star’s reputation could get thrown out of an NBA game for speaking an eternal truth — the ball don’t lie.

2. Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley Yells During Game 4 of the 1993 NBA Finals
Photo by John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Number: 329

Seasons and Teams: 8 seasons Philadelphia 76ers, 4 seasons Phoenix Suns, 4 seasons Houston Rockets

Career Highlights: Hall of Famer, 11x All-Star

Mouth-of-the-South Sir Charles Barkley has made a career out of trash-talking referees and other players. Barkley fought with every team from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Sacramento Kings. Though Old Chuck may speak like he has peanut butter stuck to the roof of his mouth, he never let that stop him from expressing himself into multiple ejections. He’s a true inspiration to us all.

1. Karl Malone

Karl Malone Jogs During a 1987 Utah Jazz Game
Photo by Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images

Number: 332

Seasons and Teams: 18 seasons Los Utah Jazz, 1 season Los Angeles Lakers


Career Highlights: Hall of Famer, 14x All-Star, 2x MVP

Karl Malone has the absolute most fouls in NBA history, technical and personal. With just three more techs than Chuck, Utah Jazz legend Malone has 4578 personal fouls, bringing his total to 4,910 career fouls.

The multi-time defensive player of the year fouled everybody in his career, from the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant to the Indiana Pacers’ Jermaine O’Neal. King Karl will likely wear his foul crown for years to come as the closest active player is still about 150 techs behind him. Karl Malone not only has the most techs, but he is also arguably the best player on this list.

Active Technical Foul Leaders

Aside from Howard and Westbrook, other active technical foul offenders include Goon Squad teammate Carmelo Anthony, famous body-language expert DeMarcus Cousins and the hilarious Draymond Green. Anthony currently leads the NBA this year with nine techs, bringing his total to approximately 160. As of June 2021, it was reported that DeMarcus Cousins had 137 technicals and Green had 131.

Perhaps the moral of the story is this: every single member of the list is a multi-time All-Star (except for one-time All-Star Anthony Mason), while many are NBA Champions and Hall of Famers.

Sometimes, it pays to play rough.

MORE: The 17 Worst Players in NBA History All Stunk (Like, Big Time)

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Daniell Marlow is an LA-based freelance writer for Buzzfeed, ScreenRant, and FanBuzz.  He is a Georgia Bulldog with a California Shih-Tzu and a lover of all types of football. Daniell runs a travel blog when he's not covering the sports world. Feel free to give it a Google.
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