Technical fouls are a part of basketball at every level, but when called in the NBA, they also come with significant fiscal consequences.
Technicals can be issued for a myriad of reasons during the course of a game. This includes “non-unsportsmanlike” reasons such as excessive timeouts, delay of game, incorrect number of players on the floor or hanging on the basket and/or rim.
However, more detrimental are unsportsmanlike whistles for conduct such as disrespectfully addressing an official, physically contacting an official, overt actions indicating resentment of a call or non-call, use of profanity, taunting or deliberately throwing elbows at an opponent.
🗓 This Day in Stats, 2001: Rasheed Wallace of the @trailblazers finishes the season with 41 technical fouls, setting an @NBA single-season record that will likely never be broken (especially since 16 techs now leads to a suspension). pic.twitter.com/2AUHd3F9iC
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 29, 2019
While the players we’ll discuss in the list are the modern leaders of getting T’d up, no one comes remotely close to what Rasheed Wallace accomplished during the 2000-01 campaign. Wallace was called for 41 technical fouls that season, which forced the league the eventually change the rules.
Nowadays, players are automatically suspended once they reach sixteen technical fouls in a single season — as Dwight Howard was this past season. Players then receive another automatic suspension with each passing two technical fouls they are called for (e.g. technical fouls No. 18, No. 20, etc.) subsequently.
Even though none of these players come close to matching the prolific rate Wallace once had, the following players are the ones who best embody his spirit:
De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento)
Chris Paul (Phoenix)
Technical fouls: 10
Fine amount: $33,000
Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul served as the NBPA’s president from 2013 until this offseason. But his position with the players’ union didn’t mean he was exempt from getting technical fouls. Paul was whistled for ten during the regular season then two more technical fouls during the postseason. The NBA veteran also successfully encouraged refs to call a technical foul on DeMarcus Cousins — which is something he unsuccessfully tried on Nikola Jokic as well.
John Wall (Houston)
Technical fouls: 11
Fine amount: $22,000
After spending the nine years of his career with the Washington Wizards, veteran point guard John Wall joined the Houston Rockets for 2020-21. While he went over two years without playing an NBA game due to multiple injuries, when he was finally back on the court, Wall was sure to make his presence known — especially to the referees.
Julius Randle (New York)
Technical fouls: 11
Fine amount: $27,000
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle, who was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player this past season, took a step forward both with his play on the court and his aggressiveness towards refs. Randle was whistled for almost twice as many technicals fouls in 2020-21 as he was during the season prior (6) with the New York Knicks.
Dillon Brooks (Memphis)
Technical fouls: 11
Fine amount: $28,000
Memphis Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks has put the “grit” in the grit-and-grind philosophy of the franchise over the past few years. He plays with a toughness and tenacity that both opponents and referees have come to anticipate whenever he is on their schedule.
Devin Booker (Phoenix)
Technical fouls: 12
Fine amount: $47,000
This past season was a career-best year for 24-year-old guard Devin Booker, who led his team to the NBA Finals. While this was his best campaign ever on the court, it also marked the most he had ever been whistled for technicals since turning pro. He was even ejected for picking up two technical fouls in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers back in March.
Draymond Green (Golden State)
Technical fouls: 13
Fine amount: $35,000
If there is one player who represents everything this list is about, it’s Golden State’s Draymond Green. There are assuredly referees who have had nightmares about his frustrations on the court — so much so, in fact, that Green was inadvertently issued a technical foul for yelling at his teammate James Wiseman when refs assumed that he was arguing a call. He was called for another technical foul within the first three minutes of a game. Another technical foul that was called on Green in Jan. was later rescinded.
Russell Westbrook (Washington)
Technical fouls: 14
Fine amount: $45,000
Nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook entered the season as the reigning leader in technical fouls, leading the league with 16 during the shortened 2019-20 campaign. He didn’t reach that total during his sole season with the Washington Wizards but perhaps that changes now that the former league MVP is now on the Los Angeles Lakers. As he once said during his time with the Houston Rockets: “I’m always the bad guy.”
Luka Doncic (Dallas)
Technical fouls: 16*
Fine amount: $63,000
Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic is a bit of a fresh face near the top of this list but those who have ever watched the 22-year-old, Slovenian-born superstar knows that he plays the game win a ton of palpable passion. He is uber-competitive and will likely be a regular on such lists moving forward. In fact, as the regular season neared its end, Doncic was nearing an automatic suspension if he was called for one more technical. He would have faced the unfortunate fate had the league not rescinded one of his technicals back in April.
Dwight Howard (Philadelphia)
Technical fouls: 16
Fine amount: $66,000
Even though Dwight Howard is a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, referees know him better as a complainer than as a rim protector. This marks the fourth time that the big man has led the league in technicals — also accomplishing as much in 2009, 2011 and 2018. Howard was even hit with a one-game suspension for reaching his sixteenth technical foul on the season in May 2021.
Image: Coley Cleary / USA TODAY Sports Media Group
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