We expect our favorite athletes to be witty at certain times—talk-show appearances, for example, or maybe even Twitter.
But it's wit when we least expect it that truly is a revelation.
Sometimes, the most unexpected guys come out with the kind of one-liners that make us cackle, and those are truly the best of them all. They'll be sitting at their lockers after a game, they'll get asked a stupid question and they'll shoot back with a fiery retort that leaves the reporter blushing and the fans dying.
For some of these guys (and ladies), we didn't even know they had it in them.
Here are some of the best one-liners and comebacks by athletes in recent memory.
Sometimes, when you have a superb one-liner percolating in your head and you know you shouldn't say it but you really, really want to, it's awkward when you finally unleash it.
We all know that Andy Roddick likes to talk. He clearly thinks he's pretty funny, and his best defense against a poor performance is a lot of yapping.
So if you're a reporter and you ask him a stupid question at a news conference, he will use his most powerful weapon against you.
Mostly due to his futility, rumors had been circulating in late 2011 that Roddick was on the brink of retirement. It had been a very, very long time since he'd been at the top of his game, he hadn't been close to winning a major in years and he had just dropped his fourth opening-round match, this time at the China Open.
But regardless of the speculation, he didn't want to talk about hanging it up.
One reporter made the mistake of asking the irascible Roddick an epically long, rambling question about whether he planned to retire, and after spending the entire question rolling his eyes, sighing and shaking his head, Roddick replied, "Uh…I think you should retire," before walking out.
It's hard to fathom the idea of a professional athlete getting paid more than the leader of the free world, but in 1930, it happened.
Back then, Babe Ruth was the most famous player in the history of baseball, and he retains that designation to this day. And back then, he got paid like it, making $80,000 in 1930.
Some saw it as a problem that his yearly salary paid him about $5,000 more than U.S. President Herbert Hoover, but Ruth didn't. The way he saw it, he earned his money, and the president…kind of didn't.
When asked why he made more money than Hoover, Ruth simply responded, "I had a better year than Hoover."
In case you didn't know, Joakim Noah hates Cleveland, and he's not afraid to say it.
In the 2010 NBA playoffs, Noah's Bulls were in town visiting the Cavaliers, and not only did Noah really, really wanted to beat them, he wanted to make it as painful as possible for everyone in Cleveland.
So he did what he does best: He ran his mouth.
First, he said that Cleveland "sucks" and called the Cavs the enemy. Then, when asked later if he regretted his comments (probably in light of the fact that his Bulls had lost once again to the Cavs), Noah refused to back down, issuing this quality tirade:
"Not at all. You like it? You think Cleveland’s cool? I never heard anybody say I’m going to Cleveland on vacation. What’s so good about Cleveland?”
Rarely are athletes able to mastermind a one-liner so perfect that it earns eternal glory in a Lonely Island song.
Kevin Garnett has always been known for being an emotional guy on the court. He never disguises his feelings, he always says what is on his mind and sometimes—like after Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals—that tendency results in a perfectly genuine, chill-inducing moment.
The Celtics had just decimated the Lakers to take their first NBA title since 1986, and Garnett—weeping as he enjoyed a confetti shower, as "We Are the Champions" played in the background—was asked, "How does NBA champion sound?"
In reply, Garnett—who had spent 13 years chasing a championship—howled, "Anything is possiblllllleeeeeeeeeeee."
If you want to get a professional tennis player's attention, it's not that hard. All you have to do is yell really loud when he or she is about to serve.
You run the risk of invoking his or her eternal fury (and of getting kicked out of the arena), but it's possible. And it worked for this guy.
One year, in the midst of one of Graf's matches at Wimbledon, a fan waited for the crowd to fall silent before he yelled, "Steffi, will you marry me?"
As the crowd erupted into laughter, the normally reserved Graf smirked and shot back, "How much money do you have?"
Tom Brady has never been known for being the kind of guy who will sling a zinger during a press conference. You have to really annoy him to provoke him into saying something petty in front of the media.
Plaxico Burress was one of the few players who has ever managed to pull off this feat.
During the usual media day shenanigans prior to Super Bowl XLII, things got a beat heated between the Patriots and the Giants when Burress made a bold score prediction (and eerily, ended up being pretty darn close), calling it 23-17 in the Giants' favor.
When Brady heard about it, he shot back, "Is Plax playing defense?"
Sadly, it was Plax & Co. who got the last laugh. In fact, he gave Brady too much credit: The Pats and their record-breaking offense only ended up putting 14 on the board.
People measure their success in different ways, depending on the circumstances. Some measure it by money, others by fame, others by social status.
Professional athletes measure their success in one way: championship rings. And if you don't have any, don't bother coming after someone who does.
Chicago's Jeremy Roenick spent a lot of time complaining about not getting a penalty shot he felt he deserved during a 1996 playoff series against Roy and the Avalanche. Roy didn't have time for Roenick's nonsense, saying Roenick wouldn't have scored anyway.
Roenick tried to keep up with Roy in the battle of the one-liners, retorting, "I'd like to know where Patrick was in Game 3—probably up trying to get his jock out of the rafters."
Roy handily won the battle, though, getting the decisive last word with this: "I can't hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears."
Back before Tiger Woods' personal life crumbled into a national disaster, he had the luxury of being sarcastic and just a little bit cocky when he conducted press conferences. Now, for the most part, he has to take it a little bit easier and play the PR game.
But there's one exception. Tiger has never liked it when anyone questioned his abilities, or his talent. He didn't like it, whether the fans, the media or other golfers were doing it.
So regardless of what's happened behind closed doors, and regardless of where his popularity ratings currently linger, Tiger isn't going to stand for nonsense. Not then, not now.
After a resurgent Tiger won the AT&T National last summer, one reporter made the mistake of asking him if he could understand why people might doubt his ability to win these days, given his injury history, his personal woes and his lack of recent major victories.
Tiger simply smirked and said, "Yeah, I won the U.S. Open on a broken leg. I can handle it."
Craig Sager has been the butt of many a joke, courtesy of the NBA. With fashion risks come inevitable fashion faux pas, and Sager has committed quite a few of those.
It's only their duty, then, for players to speak up when they see a fashion crime being committed.
Once, when Sager interviewed Shaquille O'Neal in 2008, he was wearing a horrific, watermelon-colored jacket. It was too much, as anyone with eyes could see.
So Shaq did his broadcasting friend a favor and pointed it out. When Sager asked him, "What are you planning to do after the All-Star Game to get better?", Shaq replied, "Buy you a new jacket."
Charles Barkley is one of the most quotable people in all of sports. He's the perfect candidate for an analyst job because he always has something hilarious and off-the-cuff to say. It's just the way his mind works.
One of the best one-liners he ever came up with, though, didn't come from behind the TNT desk.
Unfortunately for Barkley's lawyers, it came in a courtroom.
When Barkley was on trial in 1997 for throwing a man through a window at a nightclub in Orlando, the judge presiding over the case asked him if he had any regrets about his actions.
Boom. That's how you do it.
Mike Tyson wasn't trying to be funny, but he succeeded anyway. At his own expense.
Perhaps he wasn't thinking clearly because he had just been beaten nearly to a pulp in eight rounds at the hands of Lennox Lewis. Perhaps he was a little bit out of it. Perhaps he wasn't prepared for Jeremy Schaap's question about what the future held.
Or perhaps Tyson really didn't know the difference between "oblivion" and "Bolivian."
That would explain why, in response to Schaap, Tyson uttered the now infamous (and unintentionally hilarious) line: "I don't know, man. I guess I'm gonna fade into Bolivian."
Head coaches have tough jobs, especially when their teams lose. In the immediate aftermath of a soul-crushing defeat, they have to get up on a podium and answer questions—some legitimate, some asinine—about all that went wrong.
When legendary football coach John McKay faced such a situation after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers suffered one particularly disappointing loss, he delivered one of the best one-liners in the history of professional sports.
A reporter asked McKay for his thoughts on the Bucs' "execution" that day, and McKay deadpanned:
This one certainly wasn't a one-liner, but it was one of the comebacks of the century.
In September 2007, Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State Cowboys had just scored a big victory over Texas Tech. It should have been a happy occasion; it should have been a cause for celebration. Instead, the coach's emotionally charged postgame press conference became the butt of jokes for years to come.
Earlier in the week, a reporter had been critical of OK State quarterback Bobby Reid. Apparently, Gundy had been waiting all week to come face to face with the reporter who wrote the story because in that press conference, he absolutely unleashed, embarking on a rant in defense of his player that featured this now infamous line:
"Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40!"
Here, we come to an oldie, but one of the best of all.
Broadcaster Howard Cosell and boxer Muhammad Ali had an amusing, friendly relationship, and it gave viewers plenty of entertaining on-air moments to fawn over—but none were as epic as this one.
During one notable interview with Cosell, Ali embarked on a rant to Cosell about why Cosell had no business talking about boxing. Among Ali's points were that Cosell "has no muscles" and "you've never had a physical contact with nothing in your life."
As Ali spoke, he repeatedly jabbed his pointer finger, and then his fist, closer and closer to Cosell's face before Cosell interrupted him to say:
"Don't touch me. I'll beat your brains out."
Here, we come to one of the most famous (and infamous) lines ever uttered by a member of the NHL.
Sean Avery has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way throughout his career, mostly because of his affinity for making headlines and intentionally irritating people. The word "intentional" is appropriate because in this clip, you can clearly hear him asking the reporters, "You got a camera?" before he approaches and delivers this tasteless zinger.
In 2008, Avery had recently ended a relationship with actress Elisha Cuthbert, and she had moved on to fellow NHL player Dion Phaneuf.
Now. It's important to note that Avery was never asked for his thoughts on his ex's new guy, but he still felt the need to address it anyway.
Apropos of nothing, he approached reporters in the locker room one fateful day to say, "I just want to comment on how it's become, like, a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds."
Alas, Avery was suspended indefinitely in light of his "crude" comment.
As we have seen, Shaq has always been handy when it comes to masterminding the perfect one-liner. And unfortunately for Erick Dampier, he was the victim of this particular attack.
In 2005, Shaq was struggling through the postseason, and he wasn't pretending otherwise. Through six games, he was averaging a career postseason-low 18 points and 8.2 rebounds, and 20 minutes before Game 3 of the second round, he was scratched.
So in his postgame interviews, Shaq held himself accountable. When he was asked about his performance, he famously stated, "I've been playing like Erick Dampier."
Dampier, of course, was the Mavericks center who was publicly ridiculed by teammate and team leader Dirk Nowitzki for being outscored by 40 against Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire.
Tuukka Rask has had an interesting career in Boston. For the most part, he's proven himself to be one of the better goaltenders in the NHL, and though he's been prone to collapses at times, he's done a pretty good job. In fact, most would say he's been doing a great job, if he weren't living in the perpetual shadow of Tim Thomas' 2011 playoff performance.
Rask is no stranger to pressure, and never was that pressure heavier than in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Toronto earlier this month. The Bruins fell behind 4-1 early in the third period, and pretty much everyone had assumed they were dead and gone.
Instead of dying, though, the Bruins surged back, scoring three times by the end of the period (including once in the final minute) and securing the victory in overtime.
For his part, Rask made at least one spectacular game-saving stop in the extra period to secure the victory, and afterward, he came out with this gem (h/t NESN's Mike Cole):
"It's do or die. You're either a hero or an a**hole."
It's one of the most famous rants in sports history, and thus it deserves one of the top spots in our countdown.
As expected, when the Philadelphia 76ers underperformed in the 2002 playoffs, Allen Iverson got most of the heat. He was the superstar; it only made sense.
But when Iverson's head coach accused him of missing too many practices and thereby essentially blamed him for the team's first-round exit from the postseason, Iverson lost it.
When Iverson was asked about it in a press conference, he went off, saying the word "practice" over 20 times in a single rant.
In the aftermath of the infamous "practice" rant, did Larry Brown regret his decision to go after Iverson for missing too many practices?
Maybe. After all, it left him with even more questions to answer: In addition to having an under-performing team, he appeared to have a loose cannon of a franchise player.
But still, Brown doused the flames a bit when he made light of the situation. The next day, Brown—in his own press conference—was asked about Iverson's "practice" rant, Brown stood his ground, responding, "He said "practice" more times than he's actually practiced."