From white-knuckle tetherball games played during recess to the biggest postseason matchups across pro sports, trash talk is a fact of life.
Man is born with an on/off switch that can transform a seemingly docile, nonchalant person into a searing mass of verbal fireworks once a little competitive fire enters his blood. So the art of talking trash is truly an equal opportunity element of athletics.
While everyone can talk a little trash on the court or field, like most things in sports, some men and women simply have the ability to take it to another level; and a precious few were bestowed with both rare athletic talent and elite trash-talking chops.
When you can routinely beat your opponent and rub it in their face, you've truly achieved sports badass nirvana—and there have been more than a few occasions when some of the biggest names in sports have set the new standard for talking trash.
In December 2013, Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam raised an awful lot of eyebrows with his assessment of Lions stud wide receiver Calvin Johnson, according to John Breach of CBS Sports, questioning the physicality in Megatron’s game and calling him “pretty old.”
As per Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports, Johnson quickly responded, “He can talk all he wants. He plays (defensive back). I don’t see him every play unless I run past him. … It’s all good, I’ll show him what that old-man strength is all about though.”
Winner: I don’t want to do it, but I gotta give this one to the rookie. The Ravens won the game and Elam played great with 10 tackles, a pass defended and a game-clinching interception. Johnson was held under 100 yards and without a touchdown.
In October 2013, Lions center Dominic Raiola spent most of his downtime during a 22-9 loss to the Packers trash talking, the Wisconsin marching band. The target of most of his vitriol were the tuba players, who he called “fat,” according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (via Rick Couri of ktvu.com).
Winner: The band. Raiola not only publicly apologized for his childish name calling, he also made a “significant contribution” to the band according to Birkett.
Everyone knows about the legendary feud between former Lakers teammates Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Although it seems they’ve both put it behind them in recent years, some of the barbs exchanged—particularly by Shaq—were just plain epic.
When Shaq learned that Kobe had mentioned him (and his extramarital dalliances) to police during the investigation into sexual assault charges against him back in 2004, he was not pleased. As per Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune, here's what he had to say:
This dude’s a clown. You’re out there [messing] up and you’re saying, ‘He did it.’ He did what? You don’t even know me. I promise you we never hung out. We were never in any clubs together. He never did nothing with the team. I don’t even know this kid. But I knew he was a weirdo.
Winner: Shaq. Who knew being called a weirdo could sound that cold. I'd say Shaq is my hero, but we all know a hero ain't nothin' but a sandwich.
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch got an awful lot of attention the last two years putting up gaudy numbers against wretched competition. Last year, NIU was inexplicably chosen by the BCS to play Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Obviously buying into his own hype, Lynch had this to say about facing off with FSU, as per Steve Greenberg of Sporting News: “They’re fast, they’re physical, but they haven’t seen anything like our offense. [The Seminoles] They’re just like us. They’re human, too. If you cut them, they bleed.”
Winner: FSU, by a score of 31-10. Lynch was terrible in the game, completing 36 percent of his passes and a QBR rating of 18.
During the 1996 Western Conference semifinals, Blackhawks forward Jeremy Roenick (championship-less in his career) vented to the media after a triple-overtime loss to the Avalanche. After the game, he was still heated about what he believed should have been a penalty shot.
According to Lynn Zinser of the New York Times Roenick took a jab at Avs’ goaltender Patrick Roy, "I like Patrick’s quote that he would’ve stopped me. I just want to know where he was in Game 3, probably getting his jock out of the rafters.” Roy responded, “I can’t hear what Jeremy says, because I’ve got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears.”
Winner: Roy. Roenick thought he was being clever with that line, but it only made him look like a boob. Then Roy made him look even more like a boob. Dude is just a boob.
In November 2013, Redskins offensive lineman Trent Williams was caught off guard by some trash talk coming from an unlikely direction. Respondiing to what he said was language he heard on the field, umpire Roy Ellison called Williams a “garbage-ass, disrespectful MFer,” according to Sean Newell of Deadspin.
Winner: Williams. Ellison was ridiculous for reacting to anything being said by the players on the field and the NFL suspended him for one game without pay.
In October 2013, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy took to Twitter, as he often does, to say something mean. This time the target of his irrational ire was Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno, who was drafted before Shady back in 2009.
The tweet was in response to another tweet by ESPN’s screaming ghoul Skip Bayless:
@CutonDime25: Knowshon sucks RT @RealSkipBayless: Peyton is doing what Peyton always does. But Knowshon is KILLING the Cowboys.
And just in case anyone thought McCoy was just playing, three days later he confirmed to Philadelphia reporters that he was not, according to John Breech of CBS Sports. When asked if he regretted the tweet, McCoy said, “No,” but shut down any attempts to further elaborate on that assessment.
In December 2013, Jets tight end Kellen Winslow, who served a four-game suspension earlier in the season for PED use, talked his usual brand of trash in the week leading up to a game against the Browns. Sayeth the solider, according to Jane McManus of ESPN.com:
“Who’s going to guard me over there? Nobody. That’s how I feel and that’s how I play the game. That’s how you gotta play the game. You’ve just got to play the game, and that’s all.”
Winner: Everyone who doesn’t like Kellen Winslow. The Jets may have won, but he was held to three catches for 35 yards. Winslow has reached the 1,000 yard mark just once in his career and didn’t even play in 2012. #Bust
In November 2013, the Seahawks put a 41-20 beat down on the Vikings, but no one got beat down harder than Minnesota wide receiver Joe Webb, courtesy of Seattle’s superstar cornerback Richard Sherman. Said Sherman on a video clip on the Seahawks' official website:
“You’re not strong enough. You need to lift a little more. You’re sorry. It’s a waste of my time.”
“That’s it. That’s it. You suck. You so weak!”
Winner: Sherman, by a mile. Not only did the Seahawks win, Webb was, as usual, a complete non-factor. Oh, and the fact that Sherman was covering Webb for even a single play says very bad things about the receiving corps in Minnesota.
In November 1995 the lowly expansion Grizzlies somehow stumbled into a fourth quarter lead against the Bulls. Vancouver’s Darrick Martin got a little ahead of himself after hitting a late game shot, taunting the Chicago bench as he ran by, “I told you we were going to beat you tonight!” as per the Sports Illustrated official website.
Uh. Not so fast there. The legendary Michael Jordan didn’t take kindly to Martin’s boasting, he shot back, as per SI, “Little man, I told you not to trash talk me.” A suddenly motivated MJ spent the final two minutes of the game chipping away at their lead and systematically crushing Martin’s soul. And the Bulls won.
In December 2013, Knicks center Andrea Bargnani was booted for trash-talking Nets forward Kevin Garnett during a blowout 113-83 win over their Brooklyn neighbors. The two got tangled up going after a rebound, then Bargani got up in the face of Garnett, who wouldn’t play ball and just put his hands up.
After the game, KG dismissed the whole thing in a special way that only he could…or would do. When asked what Bargani said to him during the incident, as per Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com, he responded, “I don’t understand Italian.” Bargani’s response, “I wasn’t speaking Italian but that’s not important. The game is important.”
Winner: Bargani won the game, but somehow Garnett still feels like the winner here.
In January 2011, then Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker surprised the football-watching world when he broke with his team’s policy of saying absolutely nothing and took aim at the loudmouth coach of their division rival Jets, Rex Ryan.
The week before the two teams met in the playoffs, Welker made 10 different “foot” references while answering questions from reporters. It was a skillfully crafted joke that played off of the embarrassing foot-fetish scandal Ryan dealt with weeks earlier.
Winner: Draw. Welker won the trash talk, but Ryan’s Jets won that game.
After South Carolina defeated rival Clemson for the third consecutive time in November 2011, Steve Spurrier told The State, “We aren’t LSU and we aren’t Alabama. But we sure ain’t Clemson,” via Josh Kendall of gogamecocks.com.
Ouch, right? Clemson coach Dabo Swinney wasn’t shy about laying into the Head Ball Coach over the perceived slight. The only problem? Spurrier didn’t say it, Gamecocks radio announcer Todd Ellis did.
HBC did, however, say this: “Well, what do you want me to do? I didn’t say it. Smart people don’t believe everything they read, and they don’t believe hearsay. …I guess Dabo believed it.
Winner: HBC, as usual. Spurrier just has a way with words. Really…mean…words.
In February 1999, Antawn Jamison made his NBA debut for Golden State in a game against Houston. His whole family was in the front row that day, but the Rockets’ Charles Barkley was unmoved. According to the Sports Illustrated website, said Sir Charles: “I’m not going to take it easy on you because your mama is sitting there in the front row. I’m going to get in your butt.”
Winner: Has to be Barkley. Jamison contributed little in the Warriors loss that day, but he did go on to have a very solid career in the NBA and is still playing today.
Before signing with the Falcons as a free agent in 2013, former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had one of the more entertaining running feuds in sports.
In July 2011, their disdain for each other was hotter than the summer sun. McCoy got the ball rolling on Twitter, responding to ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweet about Umenyiora, calling him “Overrated n soft 3rd best d-line on his team honestly.”
In response, according to Mark Garofolo of the Star-Ledger, Umenyiora said, “I mean, he’s a girl, man. Who does stuff like that? … he can say ’em to my face. Don’t be no Twitter gangster man.” He also referred to McCoy as “Lady Gaga” and “a nobody,” adding “I hate him, he hates me.”
Winner: Everyone who likes their division rivalries to be nasty affairs. Those exchanges are just the tip of the iceberg, these guys traded barbs on and off the field for years—back in 2012 McCoy called Umenyiora "a ballerina in a Giants uniform," on ESPN's E:60 according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.