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Trash talking. It’s just par for the course of any competition – athletic or not. But far and away, the best trash talkers are found in pro sports, with the NBA being the most famous for it, and its players, the most fined for it. The truth of the matter is that trash talking is a necessary part of the game. All-time greats like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird were expert trash talkers, using it to intimidate and get in the head’s of their opponents, which in turn, gave them a distinct advantage. And yet some players, like Reggie Miller for example, have gone on record to admit that they trash talk just to amp themselves up during the game. Reggie also admitted that he never dared talk trash to Michael Jordan.
Making the list not because he’s the most insulting, Shaq’s more of a trash talking comedian. Every press conference was an opportunity to crack a joke, he’d also give himself the craziest nicknames, like; The Big Aristotle, the Big Cactus (when he played for Phoenix), and the Big Shamrock (when joining the Celtics). But he definitely wasn’t adverse to throwing out an insult here and there, just like the time he won a championship with the Heat, then publicly asked Kobe (with whom he’d had a long standing feud with since they split as teammates), asking him “Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes.” Or suggesting that Dwight Howard, Jason Collins, and Vlade Divac join the “flopternity” for flopping on the court too much. No, Shaq’s never one to not say what’s on his mind. But he was never mean spirited – like some of the other players on the list are.
Anyone who watched the “NBA on TNT” knows that Sir Charles never shy’s away from speaking his mind, with some comments landing him in some serious hot water. Well he was no different on the court during his playing days, with trash not just aimed at players like Michael Jordan and Latrell Sprewell, but he’d even go at refs with comments like “I’ve scored 20,000 points in this position, and you’re going to tell me what’s a foul?” But the worst thing that ever flew out of Barkley’s mouth was not his words, but spit aimed at a young girl in the stands who was heckling him. At the time, Barkley received one of the biggest fines in NBA history for that very trashy act.
Rasheed Wallace is the NBA’s all-time technical foul collector. A foul often given for having too big of a mouth at all the wrong times. But he’s also given credit by fans in-the-know for coining the phrase “Ball don’t lie!” -something he’d yell at players – like he famously did at Austin Rivers when he missed an easy free throw. If you’re ever playing a game of pickup and someone yells that out, know that they didn’t make it up – they got it from Rasheed.
Perhaps the greatest little man to ever play the game, Allen Iverson’s lightening quick speed, killer crossover, and thug life persona also made him one of the most beloved NBA personalities. And yes, Allen was also a trash talker, more so with the media, if you remember the infamous “We’re talking about practice” rant he went on in a press conference. But NBA greats like Kobe and Michael Jordan weren’t off limits to Allen’s opinions either. In fact, during his rookie season Allen had such a chip on his shoulder to prove himself, letting ever player guarding him in the league know it too, that Michael Jordan pulled him aside to give him “the talk”, to which Allen responded “I don’t have to respect anyone.”
Kobe has gone down in history as the greatest Laker of all-time. And as good as his game was, like every great, he was just as good at using his mouth to get under a player’s skin. Unfortunately for that player, it was usually one on the same team as Kobe. Yup, players like Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown got embarrassed not just in practice, but in public too. During a press conference Kobe said of them, “I was shooting 45 times a game. What was I supposed to do? Pass it to Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown?”
What would you do if someone told you that your wife tastes like cereal while you’re trying to guard them? Well that’s what Carmelo Anthony had to consider one game when Kevin Garnett told him that his wife “tastes like honey nut cheerios.” He also called Charlie Villanueva (who suffers from alopecia) a cancer patient. Kevin’s known around the league for hitting way below the belt with his words, with many players throwing fists at him during games because of it – or even waiting outside the locker room for him so they can throw down. When it comes to being a trash talker, Kevin Garnett is your prototype. Just don’t copy him on your own court. You may get shot.
Before Kevin, there was Reggie Miller. A player who could get so far under your skin that you couldn’t stop yourself from trying to kill him. Just as players like Kobe Bryant, John Starks, and Michael Jordan who have all violently went after Reggie for his on court talk. But to the fans, Reggie’s most famous for going at die-hard Knick fan, Spike Lee. Reggie and Spike were famous for trashing each other during games. You may even remember the infamous “choking sign” Reggie made at Spike after he hit a game deciding shot during the 1994 playoffs against the Knicks.
If there was one thing Gary Payton was known for, it wasn’t his defense (which was so good it earned him the nickname “The Glove”), but for his trash talk. Like Shaq, Gary was also a master nickname maker, but unlike Shaq, not for himself – but for other players. Players like Earvin Johnson (no, not Magic), who he called “Tragic Johnson”, or Jason Kidd who he called “Ason Kidd” because he had no “J”. Worst of all, Gary went after Michael Jordan when he was just a rookie. From that point on, he and Michael never got along.
Huh? Michael Jordan, the greatest of all-time needing to resort to trash talk? Absolutely. Like we said, the best players are also the best trash talkers because they use everything (including their mouth) to gain an advantage over their opponent. While there’s far too many MJ trash talking stories to list, we will tell you about the time he challenged 5’3” point guard Muggsy Bogues to shoot an uncontested game winning shot over him by yelling “Shoot it you f*cking midget!”. Muggsy missed, and said afterwards that his shot was never the same. Who knew his Airness was so cold-blooded.
If you want to know what makes a great trash talker, it’s that he can back it up. Well Larry Bird was able to do this each and every time he opened his mouth. Like the time he told Xavier McDaniel where he was going to hit the game winning shot the play before – and did. Or like the time he told Chuck Person he has a Christmas present for him, before nailing a 3-pointer in his face and yelling “Merry F*cking Christmas!”. Or, and best of all, the time he was preparing for the 1986 3-point contest, walked into the locker room, looked around and said “I’m looking around to see who’s gonna finish second.” Now that’s talking trash. And it doesn’t get any better than that.