The Greatest Trash-Talkers in College Basketball History
Trash talk is as much a part of college basketball as no-look passes, tomahawk dunks and get-that-stuff-out-of-here blocks.
When you watch games this upcoming season, you will see players on either team openly and skillfully attempting to get into their opponents’ heads.
But, we will see if any of this year’s players can break into the upper echelon of smack runners.
Here are the greatest trash-talkers of college basketball history. They were fearless and fierce, ready to say just about anything to anyone.
Here we go!
10. Michael Jordan (North Carolina): Honorary Member
Michael Jordan is being given an honorary status on this all-time best college hoops’ trash-talkers list. All customary requirements are being waved.
While there is no internet evidence of MJ talking smack while he was playing for Dean Smith, it is nearly impossible for me to accept that his entire trash-talking repertoire was developed after he left Chapel Hill.
Everyone who has followed basketball on just about any level over the last three decades knows that Jordan is one of the premier trash talkers of all time.
He would talk to opponents as he was burying jumpers. He would get in the head of adversaries when big games were on the line.
He even allegedly trash-talked former president Bill Clinton on the golf course.
Jordan’s celebrated distinction in this skill set at the next level compels me to include him here.
Let the criticism begin!
9. Nate Robinson (Washington)
If there was a stat that tracked self-confidence, former Washington Husky Nate Robinson might be in the Hall of Fame.
The diminutive point guard is fearless. He does not back down from anyone at anytime.
This same self-assurance is part of the fuel for Robinson’s 24-7 chatter on or off the court.
Stephen Curry commented once that Robinson is “a 24-7 trash talker and hype man. He talks constantly,” as reported by SLAM Online.
8. Bobby Hurley (Duke)
The trash-talking greats stay with something for a very long time.
Duke’s Bobby Hurley came out swinging after ESPN’s Fab Five special aired in 2011. He responded to a whole assortment of comments made about the Blue Devils by Jalen Rose.
In an interview with Dan Patrick, Hurley struck back:
Hurley had interesting comments on ESPN’s Fab Five documentary. “There was a high level of bitterness,” Hurley said. “Particularly directed at us.” Hurley wasn’t surprised, because Duke beat that team three times.
Hurley said that Jalen Rose might not have played if he had landed at Duke. “He might have had a hard time hitting the floor, because he wouldn’t taken my spot,” Hurley said. And he said Thomas Hill might not lose his spot either. He also had some issues with Jimmy King saying he had no game. Hurley said when he scored 26 on them, maybe that should have given King the hint.
7. Austin Rivers (Duke)
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Two Blue Devils in a row...What would Coach K say?
One of the telltale signs that someone might be a trash-talking sensation is when they begin the chatter.
Even before Duke’s Austin Rivers arrived on campus in Durham, he was shooting some flaming arrows towards Chapel Hill.
Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg reported on comments that Rivers made while he was still in high school in an Orlando Sentinel interview about the Duke/North Carolina rivalry:
"I don't think it's much of a rivalry right now because UNC's not better than Duke, nowhere near in my opinion," Rivers said with a smile. "Until UNC can start winning some games, I don't think it's much of a rivalry. They've got to do something first. Duke's done their share. I don't know about UNC."
6. Tu Holloway (Xavier)
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Tu Holloway was a hard-playing, intense point guard for Xavier.
By the time his senior year rolled around, his versatile game made him one of the best floor generals in the country.
Unfortunately for Holloway, he may be remembered more for his post-game press conference comments following the brawl that took place during the 2011 Xavier vs. Cincinnati game.
As reported by Bill Koch of Cincinnati.com, Holloway said:
We got disrespected a little bit before the game, guys calling us out. We’re a tougher team. We’re grown men over here. We’ve got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room, not thugs but tough guys on the court. We went out there and zipped them up at the end of the game. That’s our motto. Zip ‘em up. And that’s what we just did to them.
Truth be told, members of both teams exchanged multiple barbs before and during the game that sparked the brawl.
5. The Fab Five (Michigan)
Michigan’s Fab Five were known for a lot of things.
University of Michigan basketball players Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson were one of the most heralded groups of incoming collegiate basketball players of all time.
During their freshman season, the Fab Five not only made up the Wolverines starting unit, but they took the program to the 1992 NCAA championship game against Duke.
I’m guessing that this quintet knew something about trash talking especially since Mitch Albom wrote a book about them entitled, “The Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, and the American Dream.”
Rose, on the ESPN Films’ documentary, “The Fab Five,” launched a verbal grenade in the direction of the Duke Basketball program.
"I hated Duke and I hated everything Duke stood for," he said. "Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms."
After the fact, Rose attempted to clarify his provocative statement by saying that he was stating his “opinion as a teenager growing up in the inner city of Detroit.”
4. Reggie Miller (UCLA)
Reggie Miller is known as one of the great shooters of all time. He also has the reputation of being a trash-talker extraordinaire.
Indianapolis Monthly’s Amy Wimmer Schwarb reported that, while at UCLA, Miller:
Compensated for his count-my-ribs physique with on-court garbage talk, a spit at an opponent, a choke sign at a referee; in college, a rival band taunted back, waving big paper ears on the sides of their heads when he stepped onto the court. He reveled in being the crowd-spoiler, a real bad boy. He wore sunglasses indoors. He wanted people to call him “Hollywood.”
For many, the assumption is that trash talking is exclusively to mess with opponents.
Miller explained, on Freethesportsman.com, about his motivation behind his trash-talking:
70% of me talking on the court is personally for me to get me motivated and going. 30% is to see if I can get in the opponent's head.
In fact, Miller indicated in Mal Florence’ L.A. Times article that he does it only in retaliation.
3. Eric Devendorf (Syracuse)
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Syracuse’s Eric Devendorf was a trash-talker supreme.
Just about anytime that he was on the floor for the Orange, he was looking to throw someone off of their game.
Brent Axe of Syracuse.com disclosed the full extent of Devendorf’s reputation:
Devendorf is one of the most disliked Syracuse players in recent memory. Devendorf certainly played with an attitude and talked a lot of trash on the court.
Let me say that again. He talked A LOT OF TRASH on the court.
Devendorf played with a scowl on his face and did not hide from a back and forth with opposing fans either. His off the court transgressions certainly didn't help his image and made him a target as well.
For Devendorf, trash talk is just a part of the game:
Growing up back home I used to play with older guys and whether they try to rough you up or talk trash and make you feel bad about yourself, it's a part of the game for me.
2. Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss)
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Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson is one of the most fiery players in the current college hoops scene.
Last year, he had a huge impact on the Rebels program, leading the SEC in scoring, helping them win the conference tournament and reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.
His status for this upcoming season is undetermined after he was suspended earlier this past summer for reportedly failing a drug test.
But, it is Henderson’s in-your-face style that annoys so many fans.
Yahoo! Sports’ Frank Schwab described the action from last year’s SEC championship game against Florida:
Maybe you think Marshall Henderson is an entertaining goof, or believe he's the worst showboat playing college basketball. The Ole Miss guard really has never shown any inclination that he cares one way or the other, and the haters are going to have to live with him getting at least one game of trash talking and crazy gestures in the NCAA tournament.
Ole Miss, down 12 points at halftime of the SEC championship game to Florida, stormed back to win 66-63 and did it with Henderson doing what he does best: hitting shots, talking trash and agitating everyone.
1. Gary Payton (Oregon State)
Very few collegiate players have been as tenacious as Oregon State’s Gary Payton.
His determined style of play on both ends of the court translated into All American accolades while playing for the Beavers and becoming a multi-year NBA all-star and a Hall of Fame selection.
Along with being one of the true greats at his position, Payton could also bring the heat when it came to trash talk.
Long before Payton arrived on campus in Corvallis, he was rattling on wherever he played growing up in the Bay Area.
Mercury News’ Jeff Faraudo interviewed Former McClymonds High coach Dwight Nathaniel, who had coached summer-league ball against Payton, dating back to when the star was just 13 years old:
Back then, that kid was so small, but he was quick and he could really shoot it. The biggest thing is he was a trash talker. People would ask me about it later, and I'd tell them, ‘He should be good at it, he's been talking trash since middle school.’