Trash talking is an art, and in no other sport is it displayed more openly than basketball. It can be used as a psychological tool to shake up an opponent or as a way to deflate some overblown egos and burn off some steam. The geniuses of this art form come from all over the nation, but the similarities between each are confidence and skill. The best trash talkers can back up their hubris, and that’s what makes their words so devastating. Here are the five best players to ever talk smack on the hardwood.
Probably one of the most underrated crap-talkers of all time, Larry Joe Bird was never afraid of anyone on a basketball court. The stories that are told about him remain boundless and unbelievable. He would routinely mock his defenders, telling them where he was going to hit his next shot from on the floor. He would then maneuver himself to that position on the next possession and bury the bucket inches from where he had warned previously.
Another time, Bird proclaimed to a room full of reporters that he would only use his left hand in the next game. He didn’t use his off hand for the entire match, but he did for all of his shots near the rim and finished with a triple-double of 47 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists against Portland. He also hit the game-tying shot to send the game to overtime, and then made the game-winning basket.
Wow. This guy definitely deserves his own category, and it is a shame he spent most of his career on a team that didn’t have enough talent to compete in the playoffs. Once Garnett went to the Boston Celtics, his smack talk rose to another level. Where to start. Once, he allegedly called another player suffering from alopecia a cancer patient, but that might not have been as mean as when he told Carmelo Anthony that his wife tasted like a certain brand of breakfast cereal. We can definitely call that a low blow.
No trash talk list would be complete without the greatest of all time. The brilliance of Jordan was displayed when he would curse out his opponents (and referees) by putting his jersey over his mouth and unloading swear words on his intended target outside of the camera’s view. People who say MJ wouldn’t have survived in today’s social media atmosphere are so foolish. He would’ve easily adjusted his approach in the modern trash talk game.
The historians of the sport have largely forgotten Rasheed Wallace, but his impact on the game can be summed up in a three-word sentence: “Ball don’t lie.” He would famously scream this after an opponent missed a free throw following what Wallace deemed an undeserved foul call, and you can still hear his phrase on many YouTube videos and replays of classic NBA games. He committed more technical fouls than anyone else who ever picked up a basketball.
If you haven’t seen the documentary about Reggie Miller’s career titled “Winning Time,” then it’s time to get on that. It is a brilliant film that likens the shooting guard to an operatic performer and details in stunning specificity how he abused and dismissed Spike Lee’s New York Knicks back in the day. Miller was able to carve out a nice analyst role for himself despite all of the bridges he burned by talking smack. Early in his career, the then-youngster tried schooling MJ during the first half of an exhibition game, and that ended with the GOAT putting his opponent to shame with a 44-point performance. Eventually he overcame the beatdown.
These are just a few of the elite trash talkers in the sport’s history, but they are no doubt some of the best.