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The NBA’s 10 biggest complainers of 2022 (and the psychology behind complaining to refs)

At some point, every professional basketball player won’t be happy with calls that the referees make. It doesn’t matter how good you are; from LeBron James to Kyrie Irving, refs will call on fouls–or, in some cases, miss mistakes. However, some players are able to take these calls and non-calls in stride, while others complain and make their feelings known. 

The NBA’s 10 biggest complainers

A handful of NBA superstars that make the highlight reels and known for their production on the court are also well-known for their exasperation, anger and argumentative approach with the referees. We’ve come up with a subjective list of who we think are the NBA’s biggest complainers, and a psychological explanation as to why they complain so much. 

Kyle Lowry

I respect Lowry and how he’s been able to maximize his career in the NBA, but it’s hard to respect him considering how demonstrative he is after any call that goes against him or his team. If you watch enough Heat games, you’ll see Lowry’s shocked face and outstretched arms directed towards the nearest official.

Draymond Green

Green is an intense and competitive player that never seems to stop talking and is perhaps the most-visibly frustrated players in the league. Most-often it’s directed toward the refs. Anytime Green makes a layup, he always seems to yell “AND ONE” in the referee’s direction, and when Draymond feels particularly wronged by a call, he’s one of the most animated players and doesn’t let up. His aggressive dramatics have made Green one of the leaders in technical fouls the last several years.

Luka Doncic

Luka is the superstar franchise guard for the Dallas Mavericks. Doncic’s own coach, Jason Kidd, has said that Doncic complains to the refs too much and has expressed frustration with Doncic; the complaints got to the point that Doncic wasn’t participating as much as he should have in the actual game. Doncic has admitted that it’s a problem and something he needs to work on. 

Lebron James  

As one of the most well-known NBA players around the world, Lebron James is constantly in the spotlight and is regarded as one of the best players in the sport of basketball. Unfortunately, he’s also regarded as one of the biggest complainers. From getting courtside fans thrown out of games to making Isaiah Stewart bloody, James seems to be constantly involved in drama.  His drama occurs off the court, too–mainly through social media such as Twitter. Shaquille O’Neal himself called out Lebron James for complaining about the NBA’s shortened offseason during the 2020-2021 season. 

Dwight Howard

Howard didn’t lead the league in technical fouls several times over his long career by NOT complaining. He’s toned it down some in his older age, but our opinion is that’s more because Dwight doesn’t play as many minutes.

Chris Paul

CP3’s intelligence, competitiveness, and outspoken nature helps makes him the point God, but his perfectionism and passion also makes CP3 difficult. This often boils over with opponents, sometimes badgering his own teammates, and definitely manifests in his complaining to the refs.

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook’s stubbornness helps to make him one of the league’s most-ferocious players when attacking the rim, but that same bull-headedness and intensity also makes Westbrook a bomb ready to go off when something doesn’t go his way. And that explosion is aimed at opponents and referees.

Trae Young 

Trae is an up and coming, herky-jerky guard that’s also an All-Star. One of the tougher players to officiate, Young doesn’t take it easy on the officials either. Trae is often one of the league leaders in technical fouls for his exasperated and insulting approach to referees.

Devin Booker 

This high-scoring off-guard is also a non-stop talker on the court often running his mouth equally to opponents as he is chatting with referees. As with every other player above, Booker acts as if he’s never fouled someone before.

Brook Lopez  

Though his brother Robin Lopez gets more techs, Brook has became well-known in 2020 when he imitated a flop in front of the refs in a game against the Miami Heat. During the game, Miami player Bam Adebayo fell to the ground and played up his injury. He received free throws for what the refs called foul. 

Lopez took issue with what he perceived as a flop, and proceeded to throw himself to the ground in front of the refs to prove his point. Although some people found the event funny, others thought it was an extravagant, unnecessary complaint and Lopez could have injured himself. 


The Psychology of Complaining to Refs 

Being angry with the refs every once in a while is perfectly fine; everyone feels anger. Especially during a situation that is as mentally and physically demanding as a sports game, emotions are bound to come into play. Players often experience intensified emotions and to many players, it isn’t just a game–it’s also their careers, reputation, pride and livelihood. 

However, some players tend to complain more than others, and some have made a name for themselves due to it. What’s the reason behind this? There’s actually a psychology behind complaining to refs–and complaining too much is actually known as chronic complaining

One of the key aspects to chronic complaining is the feeling of a loss of control. If players feel that notifying someone (in this case, the refs) about a problem will help remedy the situation, they are more likely to complain so that they can regain control over the situation. Complaining is also a type of communication and can help people feel validated; some people may seek out validation more than others. People also have different tolerance levels for conflict. Someone who complains more often may have a lower tolerance. 

However, complaining also helps reinforce ego–which is why some of the biggest names in basketball are known for complaining. Sometimes, people believe that they hold sway just because of who they are, and that their complaints will be listened to. They’re good at what they do and believe they’re always right. 

While complaining isn’t necessarily bad, it can have a negative impact if it occurs too often. Just ask Brook Lopez, Luka Doncic, and Lebron James–or any of the players, coaches, and refs that have to be around them. 

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