The National Basketball Association has a proud tradition of trash talking that no amount of personal fouls or game ejections can obscure. But just like with other more athletic aspects of the game, some players are more skilled at trash talk than others. Sometimes even the coaches get in on it, like Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel’s recent comment that the Miami Heat are “just another team.”
Need more examples? Here are nine of the greatest trash-talking moments in the history of the NBA. From Shaq, to Kobe, to Larry Bird, all the trash-talking greats are here. It might even make you reflect on how the art of the trash talk isn’t what it used to be. But then again, what is?
Even Kobe Bryant has a breaking point, and he reached it after some major taunting from Ron Artest. As you can see in the above video, Kobe’s trash talk style is highly animated, almost so much so that the broadcast’s subtitles seem unnecessary. Maybe if the basketball thing doesn’t work out he can be a silent movie actor.
One of Kobe’s best trash-talk opponents has been Allen Iverson. In the above video, Iverson goes toe to toe with Bryant in the trash-talk arena. And he makes good sport of it, as Iverson’s fans would expect him to. He’s built a reputation for himself as one of the most prolific trash-talkers in the NBA, and the above video is just one example.
Kevin Garnett is another NBA player who has a reputation for trash talk. His spat with Jose Calderon isn’t done justice by the above transcription, but some of his other remarks can be. Like the time he called Charlie Villanueva a “cancer patient.” Don’t worry though, he later clarified that he only meant he’s a “cancer to his team.” Whew, that was a close one.
Sometimes, even spectators aren’t safe from trash talk. Especially if they happen to be famous filmmaker and Knicks fan Spike Lee, who was the recipient of some top-notch taunting from trash talk legend Reggie Miller. The great thing about Reggie’s taunt is that he completely backs it up during the game, which is a crucial component to any high-grade trash talk.
Speaking of backing up your trash talk, let’s talk a little about Larry Bird. In his day, he was known for his particular brand of taunting that was always backed up by his performance on the court. His trash talk game was so legendary that even one of the targets of it, Xavier McDaniel, had to give it up for Larry in a retrospective interview.
Dikembe Mutombo was the recipient of this incredible taunt from the only guy who could do it – Michael Jordan. In one of the greatest instances of trash talking in the history of the sport, Jordan welcomes Mutombo to the NBA by taking (and making) a free throw with his eyes closed. Imagine what would have happened if he’d missed.
MJ was also the target of some legendary trash talking from Charles Barkley. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sir Charles would be willing to mix it up with a legend like Jordan, since he’s always been known for his outspoken ways on and off the court. It’s that outspokenness that made him a great trash talker, a skill he’s carried over to his broadcasting career.
Rasheed Wallace is the all-time leader of the NBA for technical fouls, so you know he’s done his fair share of trash talk over the years. His most famous showing in the trash talk field is in the above clip, when he protested what he thought was a bad call by yelling that the “ball don’t lie.”
Leave it to Shaq to take the art of the trash talk to a completely new level. This didn’t even take place on the court, but in a club in New York City. When Shaq was invited to do a little freestyling, he took the opportunity to insult Kobe in a variety of ways, including leading the crowd in chanting “Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes.” I’m guessing that’d be a personal foul if it happened during a game.
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