Rising Kiwi basketball star Steven Adams is making a name for himself in the NBA for getting under the skin of opponents. Several of them have lost their cool this season and been ejected and fined for attacking Oklahoma City's giant Kiwi.

"He just plays hard and goes down to the next play," says his coach Scott Brooks, who is mightily impressed with Adams' hard, stoic approach.

We cast an eye over those with the knack of bringing out the worst in foes ... and even friends.

Jimmy Connors (US) - giving a serve
Connors was an outsider from the wrong side of the tracks who upset everyone, from the snotty tennis establishment to those on the other side of the net. And umpires, beware. Connors loved playing the villain, but he knew how to whip up a crowd and ride the support to victory.


Friendships took a distant second to winning. John McEnroe - not the most chilled of characters - still wants to punch him. Patrick McEnroe told an ESPN documentary that "it's tough to be an arsehole in the locker room".

Lee Trevino (US) - fairway fun
From a golden age of golf, Trevino's constant chatter drove playing partners crazy. It wasn't generally regarded as malicious, though he would say things like "if I can birdie this hole I'll bust him" while swinging the club.

His scattergun verbals meant he was bound to land a few blows. But most believed Trevino talked to calm himself and let the subconscious rule without over-thinking shots. Tony Jacklin asked him to zip it at a British Open, to which Trevino replied, "You don't have to talk, Tony, just listen." Some players enjoyed the experience. Tom Weiskopf reckoned Trevino brought in the punters.

Robbie Savage (Wales) - dribbler
Welsh soccer international and EPL traveller Savage irritated opponents and spectators alike with his backchat, cheap shots, flashy demeanour and diving.

All Whites legend Ryan Nelsen told the Herald: "There was a day when he got kicked by Rio Ferdinand, stayed down, got Ferdinand sent off and was stretchered off with oxygen because of what we thought was a broken leg. When we [Blackburn] got back to the changing rooms, Robbie was jumping up and down listening to techno music. Five minutes earlier he had been on a stretcher, waving like a fallen hero to the crowd. He is hilarious. If I ever write a book there will be a lot about him in it."

Umpire Tony Crafter had to step in to prevent Aussie bowler Dennis Lillee and batsman and master sledger Javed Miandad coming to blows during a 1981 test.
Umpire Tony Crafter had to step in to prevent Aussie bowler Dennis Lillee and batsman and master sledger Javed Miandad coming to blows during a 1981 test.

Javed Miandad (Pakistan) - bat chat

As someone once wrote, the Pakistani maestro turned the tables by sledging while he batted. Miandad was a master at riling the fielding side, including by singing and laughing while chipping his way to mammoth scores. He regarded cricket as war, writing "the terrible embarrassment and shame [of defeat] brought tears to my eyes and a chill down my spine".

During one battle, he sledged the Aussie fast bowler Merv Hughes as a "fat bus driver", with fat bus driver impersonations thrown in. Hughes, on dismissing Miandad, called out "tickets please". It was a rare verbal defeat for Pakistan's chirpy warrior.

Sean Avery (Canada) - giving stick
Described as a super-pest in ice hockey, the big-mouth Canadian was voted off Dancing With the Stars this year after a bust-up with the producer.

Old habits die hard. He was a champion at goading opponents on the ice, and also off it when they dated his ex-girlfriends. His cheap-shot tactics led to one NHL rule change.

Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand) - ear ache
Generally regarded as the All Black opponents most loved to hate, but a good egg off the field.

He was niggly, annoying and extremely chatty, with an unmatched ability to take over the officiating - he had a unique way of winning friends and influencing people when it came to referees. But the great All Black captain was not too popular outside Auckland.

He says he had most success in the wind-up arena with Aussie hooker Michael Foley.

On facing another Wallaby hooker, Phil Kearns, for the first time, Fitzpatrick told the future legend he was a boy doing a man's job. South African Johan le Roux cracked in one incident, and bit Fitzy's ear. The pair had a beer together afterwards.

A. J. Pierzynski (US) - diamond baseballer
The veteran catcher, now with the Boston Red Sox, is described as an unpopular teammate who angers opponents with antics such as stepping on bats and toes.

He tops most-hated votes, including a victory in a poll of 100 anonymous MLB players.

Hayden Ballantyne (Australia) - no rules
The AFL forward-pocket player is portrayed as the annoying, silent type who baits opponents with dirty tactics that suck them into retaliatory acts. He was recently suspended for striking and kneeing the same player in separate incidents off the ball. His own coach was annoyed by that. Ballantyne does break his silence if necessary. After sucking in another opponent, Ballantyne screamed: "He punched me in the nuts." A Herald Sun story reckoned: "There is no nice way of putting it ... there is not a lot of love out there for him."

Anna Scarlett (NZ) - hoop screams
Opponents saw red when Scarlett (now Harrison) was about. A lot of the complaints are anecdotal - netball doesn't revel in airing its dirty laundry - but Irene van Dyk went public and was backed by one luminary who accused Scarlett of late hits to the hands. Scarlett freely admitted she liked to intimidate. Her loose-limbed defending did not go down well during genteel times, although she was a trailblazer considering the physical way netball is played nowadays.

Jimmy Spithill (Australia) - full of wind
Turned the screws, even when he appeared screwed. Oracle's America Cup skipper sailed along when 1-8 down against Dean Barker, claiming Team New Zealand had everything to fear because of the nightmare of losing from that huge point of advantage. And we all know what happened next.