By now, everyone is looking at their morning bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios in a different light after the recent altercation between Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett. While whatever happened between the two All-Stars may have been crossing the line, it's nothing new to the NBA.
In fact, trash-talk has been around longer than the three-point line. Certain players consistently gain a mental edge over their opponents through their ability to talk trash. So, without further ado, here are ten of the best trash-talkers the NBA has ever seen.
Allen Iverson was about as confident a player as you could find in the NBA. He simply oozed confidence on and off the court. Thus, it is natural that he was unafraid to talk a lot of trash on the court.
In the video above, he goes after Kobe Bryant and the two of them make a deadly combination of trash-talkers. Even the level-headed Derek Fischer couldn't keep the two of them from going at it.
This is just further proof that when A.I. wasn't "talkin' 'bout practice," he was talking trash and protruding confidence on the court.
Shaquille O'Neal was the ultimate Renaissance Man. Not only was he one of the most dominant players in the history of the league, but he could also rap, be in low-quality movies, be a police officer, earn his Ed.D., make reality television and talk trash. Basically the only thing he couldn't do was hit free throws.
In games, he was known to make comments to opponents to get in their heads. With his playful personality, it is unlikely that his words were ever too harsh, but they no doubt helped him on the court.
And, like a true trash-talker, he didn't limit his words to the court. In his Kobe rap, not only does he insult Kobe, but he also takes a shot at the ring-less Patrick Ewing. With Shaq, it's all in fun, but that doesn't mean his words didn't still sting.
How can I have a list like this and not include the NBA's all-time leader in technical fouls? You don't rack up the number of technical fouls 'Sheed has without talking some serious trash—both of officials and to opposing players.
His most famous line is screaming, "Ball don't lie," following a missed free throw after what was, in his mind, a bad call. Apparently, for Wallace, that is now an eject-able offense.
On the bright side, it adds to his rep as the best foul shot trash-talker in NBA history.
Recently, he taunted Arron Afflalo after a missed free throw saying, "Yeah, Aflac!" That is vintage Sheed free-throw chatter: always audible, always funny.
It's times like these where I wish I was a better lip-reader. Here, Kobe Bryant, already considered a great trash-talker, is at the line, saying something to Gerald Wallace as he sinks a free throw. I guess I'll just have to use my imagination as to what exactly he said.
Regardless of what he did say, Kobe really captured the essence of talking trash in the NBA here. It's not about what you say, necessarily, rather, how you back it up. Everything Kobe said was validated when he made the free throw.
The best of the best tell you that they're going to hit a shot over you, then go out and do it. Kobe is definitely in this elite group of trash-talkers.
Charles Barkley is never afraid to say what is on his mind, as an analyst for TNT or a player. Like any good trash-talker, he will jaw at any player. In the video, he goes at the insane Latrell Sprewell. Sprewell would go on to grow out dreadlocks and make the news for choking his coach.
Most people would be afraid to talk smack to someone unstable like that; not Sir Charles, though.
He also got into a trash-talking bout with the legendary player and trash-talker Michael Jordan. Barkley truly was ruthless and fearless as a trash-talker and for that, he lands at No. 6 on the list.
There are just so many instances involving Kevin Garnett that I don't even know where to start. There's him taunting Jose Calderon while guarding the quick guard full court. Then, there's his post-block ritual.
And then there are those stories of Garnett allegedly crossing the line. He apparently called Charlie Villanueva a "cancer patient," but then clarified that he really called him a "cancer to his team." Yikes.
Then, there is this most recent incident of Garnett allegedly saying Carmelo Anthony's wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios. These incidents are so outlandish and over the line that they almost have to be true.
But that is the ruthless nature of Kevin Garnett; he will say and do anything to win, even cross the line and make a lot of enemies. While what he does may be morally wrong, it does help him win basketball games.
Think about it: Garnett said what he said to Carmelo Anthony, Melo shot 6-26, the Celtics won and by the time Carmelo went after Garnett following the game, KG had already won. He said what he needed to say, it threw Melo off, the Celtics won, KG won.
He is the ruthless bully that crosses the line simply to get in the opponent's head and win games. As a Celtics fan, I love him, but if he weren't on the Celtics, he may be public enemy No. 1 in my book.
Speaking of ruthless trash-talkers, Gary Payton was quite the talker himself and, like Garnett, he had very few boundaries. Nothing was off-limits for the Glove.
The unfortunate part about someone like Payton is that we are left with very few actual video evidence of his historic trash-talk, just the stories.
Here are my two favorites:
He apparently told Jamie Feick that he "won't even be in the league next year" after Feick tried to jaw at him.
What's more is that Payton didn't just talk to scrubs. He went after the man himself, Michael Jordan, in his first preseason game as a rookie. The audacity to not only talk trash to Michael Jordan, but to do so in his first NBA game solidifies Payton's spot as the No. 4 NBA trash-talker of all time.
Reggie Miller's trash-talking abilities were well-chronicled in the 30 for 30 "Winning Time." By far, his most legendary moments as a trash-talker came in that series against the New York Knicks. He completely got into John Starks' head early in the series. Then, moved onto his next challenge: Spike Lee.
In the video above, he gives Spike the classic "choke" sign. Like all good trash-talkers, Miller backed up his talk with his cold-blooded shooting at the big moments.
For me, though, the best part about Reggie's trash-talk is how he tries to act like the nice, innocent guy that would never talk smack in a game.
He reminds me of that annoying kid playing pickup who talks the whole game and you can't stop. By the end of the game, you just want to fight them.
And that was the effect Reggie had on his opponents. They, justifiably, wanted to beat up the skinny kid who had been talking all game.
This video above of Michael Jordan hitting the free throw with his eyes closed, then saying to Dikembe Mutombo, "Welcome to the NBA" is just unbelievable to me. That is about as good as it gets in terms of backing up your talk. Mutombo told him to shoot it with his eyes closed, he did, he swished it. Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest of all time: Michael Jordan.
There are other great stories with Jordan, such as the time MJ told Nick Anderson what move he was going to do, then still managed to beat Anderson with it. Or, Jordan mouthing, "He can't guard me" after repeatedly scoring on Gerald Wilkins.
What's most important to note with Jordan, though, is the fact that trash-talk was simply part of the game with him. He did what he could to get in his opponent's head and it worked for him.
The opposing player would try to go back at Jordan and would obviously not be able to match what Jordan was doing.
Trash-talk was just another weapon in the arsenal for Michael Jordan and, as the best player ever, he backed up what he said nearly every time. Still, there remains one more player who, at least on this list, is better than the greatest player of all time.
Where do we even start with Larry Bird. He was a trash-talking menace. He didn't cross the line like Kevin Garnett, he simply got in his opponent's head and backed up everything he said.
The above video is the perfect example. He told poor Xavier McDaniel exactly how he was going to hit the game-winning shot and there was nothing McDaniel could do to stop it. That may be my favorite story of Larry Legend talking trash, but here are a few other close seconds:
Before the first three-point shooting contest, Larry went into the locker room and just quietly looked around until someone asked him what he was doing and he replied that he was trying to figure out who was going to come in second.
In a later three-point shooting contest, Larry was behind, but proceeded to hit his remaining few shots to tie it, then as he released the moneyball for the win, he turned and put his finger in the air before it went in, and, surprise, surprise, it hit nothing but net.
Against Dennis Rodman, he would call for the ball while getting smothered by Rodman, claiming he was open, then he would get the ball, hit the shot and tell the opposing coach that Rodman was making it too easy by not covering him.
Against Julius Erving, later in Dr. J's career, Bird kept a running tally of both their point totals, once Bird got to 42 to six, Dr. J had had enough and got into a vicious fight with Bird. Hey, no one said talking trash made you any friends.
Then, finally, in a Christmas game against the Pacers, Bird went up to Chuck Person before the game and told him that he had a present for him. During the game, Bird hit a three in front of the Pacers' bench where Person was sitting, turned to Person and said, "Merry f----ing Christmas."
With those stories, there is just no denying that Bird was in a class of his own for trash-talking. The Hick from French Lick knew just what to say and exactly how to back it up.
I don't think there will ever be another player quite as good at talking trash as Larry Bird.