Best On-Court and Off-Court Smack Talk of NBA Season So Far
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For those of you who say that the days of NBA trash talk are long gone, I present you with the best on- and off-court smack talk of the season so far.
Okay, sure, the NBA is mostly buddy-buddy now. It's gotten to the point that stories depicting two players who hate each other are shocking rather than expected.
But that doesn't mean that trash talk is completely gone.
Larry Bird and Michael Jordan aren't out there throwing metaphorical jabs (and very real elbows), but there's still a bit of chippiness left in the league.
You just need to know where to look.
No. 11: Shane Battier vs. Mike Dunleavy
Shane Battier—Jeopardy! champ?
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In what has to be the nerdiest trash talk ever, Shane Battier and Mike Dunleavy recently got into a good-natured spat over which of them would beat the other in a game of Jeopardy!
He probably could beat everybody else. I don’t think he could beat me. … I think what he meant to say is (Battier) can beat any player in the NBA besides any who went to Duke. I think Grant (Hill, also a Duke alum) could give him a run for his money.
Things really escalated from there, with Battier responding by saying (again per Fox Sports' Chris Tomasson):
Michael knows better. I’m a little disappointed in him saying that. … I’m ready any time, any place. Tell Dunleavy, tell Grant Hill, you know where to find me. Home or away, I don’t care.
My goodness. It’s hard to believe that David Stern didn’t throw out any suspensions after talk like that.
Battier’s Miami Heat recently beat Dunleavy’s Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 in overtime, and nothing even remotely Jeopardy!-like happened. They must be giving each other time to train.
This argument should make the next few Heat-Bucks games very interesting. It’ll be a joy to watch the two engage in impromptu quiz-offs at the free-throw line or toss out fun trivia while they’re guarding each other. Truly the game within the game.
(Note: Battier has to be the favorite. Ever heard that guy talk? It’s like listening to a philosophy professor.)
No. 10: Rasheed Wallace vs. Rasheed Wallace’s Reputation
Knicks fans should get used to this sight.
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In one of the funniest moments of this season, Rasheed Wallace received a technical (and subsequent ejection) for yelling the phrase “Ball don’t lie” after Goran Dragic missed a free throw (that he was ironically granted after a ‘Sheed technical).
I can think of exactly two reasons why Wallace would have gotten a technical for this:
- Officials have been subconsciously trained to give Rasheed a technical for anything he says besides things like “good job” or “great effort.”
- The official accidentally blew his whistle, didn’t want to look silly, and just ejected Rasheed knowing that people would assume he did something bad.
That’s pretty much it. Whether or not Rasheed got in the head of Goran Dragic is unclear, but he was definitely in the official’s head that night. Ball don’t lie.
(Note: Rasheed Wallace’s 41 technical fouls in one season has become the most secretly unbreakable record in professional sports. Now that there’s a suspension rule in place, there’s no way that anyone even remotely approaches 41. Congrats ‘Sheed— you’ll be in the record books forever)
No. 9: Kevin Garnett vs. Ray Allen
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen: Friends no more.
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Sometimes when it comes to smack talk, the less you say, the better.
Apparently that’s the way Kevin Garnett sees it.
There was some noticeable animosity between Garnett and Ray Allen following Allen’s departure from the Boston Celtics. That led to a lot of hype surrounding how Garnett would treat Ray Allen when Allen’s Miami Heat and Garnett’s Celtics met in the season opener.
Garnett answered in typical KG fashion—with a super-intense cold shoulder.
When Garnett was later asked why he ignored Ray, he said (according to Gary Washburn of Boston.com):
You know what man, I was just trying to stay as neutral as I could but obviously I'm an intense person. Other than it was blank, I just saw the Heat uniforms and obviously he's on the other side and I just tried to play the game, man.
Of course, because Ray Allen is Ray Allen, he immediately came into the game and drilled a buzzer-beating three-pointer. But that’s beside the point.
Kevin Garnett made his point in a way that he never could have with words: We used to be friends. Now you’re just another player.
No. 8: Rasheed Wallace vs. the Memphis Grizzlies
Rasheed Wallace is one of the last remaining trash talkers.
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Rasheed Wallace has been one of the best trash talkers in the NBA for years now, and he proved why in the New York Knicks’ November 16th game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
‘Sheed dropped 14 points in the game to go along with four rebounds and three blocks. He also had a few things to say to the Grizzlies’ bench while he was doing it.
Among the best tweets about his smack talk:
Rasheed Wallace barking at Grizzlies bench - "ZBO ain't gonna make no difference either!" he is feeling it. hahahhaha.— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) November 17, 2012
Sheed yelling "I still got it" to Griz bench while Smith shoots his FTs.— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) November 17, 2012
You can find a few more of the tweets here (though be warned that there’s some PG-13 language in a few of them). Unfortunately, ‘Sheed’s highlight video doesn’t show much of his trash talk, but it’s almost certain that he'll do some more talking in the weeks to come.
The lesson, as always: Rasheed Wallace is amazing.
No. 7: Tyler Hansbrough vs. Tristan Thompson
Whatever this man did to Ben Hansbrough, it was probably really bad.
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The Indiana Pacers’ Tyler Hansbrough had a thing or two to say to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson after Thompson (seemingly) inadvertently threw an elbow at Tyler’s little brother, Ben Hansbrough.
What’s great about this video is that Hansbrough very clearly gets into Thompson’s head. Despite the fact that Tristan Thompson could 100 percent wipe the floor with five Tyler Hansbroughs, he backs down—and it’s hard to blame him.
When Psycho T does the whole “crazy, bug-eyed, Mama Bear protecting her cub” routine, he could psych pretty much anyone in the league out. He looks downright crazy. Fans in the twelfth row were probably scared.
No. 6: J.R. Smith vs. Jerryd Bayless
If Jerryd Bayless is small, what does that make Mike Conley?
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The feud between these two isn’t higher only because it was pretty one-sided—J. R. Smith did pretty much all of the talking.
Other than me trying to get the ball, I don’t know what he could’ve been mad at. Some small guards have a little man’s complex. They got to work that out.
He then tweeted:
Fake tuff guys... That's that ish I don't like!!!! #ManUp!— JR Smith (@TheRealJRSmith) November 17, 2012
This is funny for a few reasons:
- Jerryd Bayless is 6’3”. That’s not enormous by NBA standards, but he’s not exactly in the Nate Robinson zone.
- Smith was clearly backpedaling. It’s unclear how Jerryd Bayless is the one that was construed as a fake tough guy in all this (not that Smith is fake-tough either).
- Smith said he was "trying to get the ball," but the ball was very firmly in Carmelo Anthony's hands. A pass did not appear to be forthcoming
If Bayless had fired back at Smith, then we might have seen some real fireworks. But as it is, J.R.’s one-sided smack talk can go no higher than No. 6.
No. 5: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Sean Elliott
Which television analyst is going to step up next, huh?
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It’s not too often that you see trash talk between a player and a television analyst. But that’s exactly what happened between Sacramento Kings’ big man DeMarcus Cousins and San Antonio Spurs’ TV analyst (and former Spur) Sean Elliott.
In a November 9th showdown between the Kings and Spurs, DeMarcus Cousins was outplaying Tim Duncan and talking a little smack to Duncan and to the Spurs bench.
When Duncan later started outplaying Cousins, Elliott went into a tirade about respect, saying (per Spurs Nation’s Mike Monroe):
That's why some humility is in order. You think you're dominating Tim Duncan, you get it stuffed right back in your face. Timmy doesn't like to talk trash. But if guys start talking mess to him, he's going to respond. All that trash talking was premature. I'm not about to let these guys off the hook. Young ballclubs should learn from this. Don't start talking and flapping your gums against one of the greatest players ever. He's going to make you pay. Tell me who got the best of this exchange.
Cousins was informed of Elliott’s comments after the game, responded by calling Elliott “immature,” and went to confront Elliott following his postgame show. The NBA quickly reacted by slapping Cousins with a two-game suspension.
It’s a weird, weird world when players and analysts start going at it.
No. 4: Kobe Bryant vs. Smush Parker
Don't be fooled—these two do NOT like each other.
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If your first reaction to this slide was to immediately google “Who is Smush Parker?” then you’re probably not alone. For those of you who didn’t go that route, all you really need to know is that Parker was the Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard from 2005-07.
Anyways, he and Kobe Bryant got into an absolutely bizarre media battle over the course of the NBA preseason.
It all started when Bryant (seemingly out of nowhere) blasted Parker, telling the Orange County Register’s Janis Carr that Parker was:
the worst. He shouldn’t have been in the NBA but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. So we let him walk on.
Ouch. Parker then shot back that Kobe (per TMZ) was “overrated as a teammate,” that Kobe rarely talked to his teammates and that Kobe:
told me out of his own mouth that I couldn't talk to him. That my accolades under my belt weren't deserving enough for me to talk to him.
Of course, Kobe had to reply, telling the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan:
I was devastated. What's he going to do? 'Yeah, Kobe's right?' I gave him his little 30 minutes of fame again. I wish him the best of luck. Maybe he'll get back to the NBA one day and can see what it's like up close again.
No. 3: Serge Ibaka vs. Metta World Peace and Stephen Jackson
I have literally no idea what's going on in this picture.
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Metta World Peace has a bit of history with the Oklahoma City Thunder, so it wasn’t surprising to see him mix it up with Serge Ibaka during their last meeting. No big deal. The spat got broken up, and play resumed as usual
(Note: who would actually win in a fight between these two could be the source of endless debate. Both men are enormous and ridiculously strong. World Peace is certifiably crazy, but Ibaka grew up amidst endless war in the Republic of the Congo. Tough call.)
However, the San Antonio Spurs’ Stephen Jackson (who is good friends with World Peace) apparently took exception to what Ibaka did or said to Metta and tweeted (according to NBC Sports’ Brett Pollakoff):
Somebody tel serg Abaka. He aint bout dis life. Next time he run up on me im goin in his mouth. That’s a promise. He doin 2 much.
Exactly what Jackson meant when he said he was “goin in serg Abaka’s mouth” is unclear (though to be fair, I ain't bout dat life). The NBA certainly didn’t like it, though, fining Jackson $25 thousand.
He later apologized to Ibaka, saying (according to ESPN):
I apologize to Serge Ibaka, the NBA, and to all my fans for the comments I made. It was unprofessional and childish. I'm not a thug just a man who speaks his mind. It was not appropriate. I do apologize. Only a man can admit when he's wrong.
On December 17th, Ibaka and Jackson met on the court for the first time since the incident and nothing eventful happened.
It could very well be that these two have put everything behind them. But knowing them, there's always a chance for some smack talk.
No. 2: Amir Johnson vs. Referee David Jones
Somebody give this man the ball!
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Now this was the funniest moment of the season.
For whatever reason, it’s become standard practice to let players rub the ball between free throws. Who knows why? Heck, Serge Ibaka actually smells the ball in between freebies.
So when referee David Jones wouldn’t let the Toronto Raptors' Amir Johnson hold the ball after a Portland Trailblazers' free throw, Johnson kind of lost it.
The two men got into a weird tug-of-war battle for the ball, which resulted in Johnson’s being ejected from the game and his subsequent mouthpiece-toss at Jones. Said Johnson after the game (per ESPN):
I guess the ref didn't let me have the ball, so we kind of got into a tug-of-war. No words were really said, and he rejected me out of the game, and I kind of lost my cool from there.
Little bit of an understatement from Amir there. Also, while there were no words while they were tussling for the ball, there was most definitely some smack talk coming from Johnson after he got tossed.
The best clip of the ejection is actually this one because you can see DeMar DeRozan’s “Yup, I play for the Toronto Raptors” face as he wonders if he made the right choice in signing an extension this summer.
No. 1: Kendrick Perkins vs. Zach Randolph
It's really surprising that these men were talking smack. They seem so close (get it?).
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What? Kendrick Perkins was talking smack and nearly got into a fight? Kendrick Perkins? He always seemed like the altar-boy type. Unbelievable.
In all seriousness, the Perkins-Zach Randolph dispute had to be roughly the least-surprising thing in NBA history.
Both men are a bit prone to anger, and this game had all the makings of a potential conflict. (If you listen really carefully, you can hear both Perk and Randolph yell some choice things).
However, things actually ramped up a bit after the two players were ejected. After the game, The Oklahoman’s John Rohde reported:
After the two players were separated, Perkins ran off the court in front of the Thunder bench and into a hallway, where he had another altercation with Randolph outside the postgame interview room next to the Thunder locker room. The players were separated by Oklahoma City police officers.
It was later reported that nothing really serious happened between the two players after the game (per CBS Sports’ Zach Harper), but Randolph was eventually fined $25 thousand by the league office.
Randolph later told Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Devine:
It won't happen again. I ain't gonna lose no $25,000 again. I'm done with all that bluffing on the court, because them guys do a lot of bluffing. [...] We don't do no bluffing, man.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies don’t meet again until January 31st, so we’ll have to wait a while to see if Randolph’s words are true. Knowing him and Perkins, there’s a pretty good chance that some more smack talk is exchanged.