Once a mythical monster, the term “troll” has been redefined for the modern age as a very real being. Today a troll is a flamethrower, a trash-talker, a mudslinger and any other synonym for a person who enjoys stirring the pot.
No longer relegated to living in caves and under bridges, trolls are living among us, working beside us and raising hell on social media. One may be sleeping across the hall from you—or even right next to you in the same bed.
Of course, there’s nowhere trolls flourish more than in the hypercompetitive world of professional sports. The widespread reach of the internet means there’s a platform and an audience for every athlete or member of the sports media who wants one.
Here are the best trolls in sports today.
Every time boxer Floyd Mayweather tweets a photo of himself doing whatever with whoever and massive piles of cash, he’s trolling the American public…and bragging…but mostly trolling. Same with when he’s hanging out with Justin Bieber.
Though he’s adept at sweepingly broad trolling, Mayweather is particularly skilled when taking aim at a single person. And there’s no single person on Earth he enjoys taking aim at more—as long as it’s out of the ring—than fellow welterweight Manny Pacquiao.
In fact, Floyd Money spent the most recent holiday season on Twitter trolling anyone and everyone who popped into his head. Jesus probably would’ve wanted it that way.
Mavericks owner and “notorious bad-boy billionaire," according to Ilyse Hogue of the Nation. Mark Cuban is an unabashed troll. He loves the spotlight, he loves ruffling feathers and, more than anything, he really seems to love being the guy that a lot of people love to hate.
In February 2013 on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM, Cuban poked the hornet’s nest best known as Laker Nation by suggesting the team cut ties with an aging and expensive Kobe Bryant during the offseason in order to avoid the luxury tax hit. Bryant trolled him back in a way that only he could.
After the Laker’s publicly denounced the remark as “inappropriate,” Cuban trolled us again with an almost apology. Before a game, he said Bryant was just a hypothetical and that “any time you try to explain the CBA, it’s hard to do without giving an example.”
See what he did there? Cuban was just using an example because us common folk are too thick to understand his big business brain. That being said, he is the master, and it’s always a joy to watch a master at work.
At some point, most of us have asked ourselves—or asked someone else—the question: “What the heck is up with Brian Wilson?” Is there anything about that shtick of his that’s serious, or is it just an elaborate scheme dreamt up by a mediocre reliever in an attempt to make a name for himself?
General consensus and common sense favors the latter. While the Andy Kaufman-esque level of dedication to his bit is kind of impressive, the level of attention Wilson continues to receive for his tattoos and his beard and his ridiculous hairstyles is just menacing.
He’s managed to reinvent himself in such a way that his mere existence is trolling. Every time Wilson does something outlandish and we pay attention, he just sits back and laughs…all the way to the bank.
MMA fighter Chael Sonnen is far better at trolling than he is at actually fighting. Considering the 36-year-old’s 2-3 UFC record isn’t likely to improve at this point—since he refuses to retire, per a UFC Tonight comment, it’ll only get worse—trash-talking is really all he’s got.
In the past Sonnen has taken aim at, among many others, Jon Jones, probably because he’s a far superior fighter, Anderson Silva, probably because he’s a far superior fighter, and Arianny Celeste, probably because he doesn’t have much luck with the ladies.
Oh! And of course Lance Armstrong, probably because he’s a very easy target, and Sonnen needs any win he can get these days.
Nets big man Kevin Garnett has a way with words, and he usually uses his words to make people feel bad about themselves. Like in December 2013, when he dismissed the trash-talk of Knicks center Andrea Bargnani, stating after a game that he doesn’t “understand Italian.” Nevermind that Bargnani was speaking English!
Then of course there’s poor Craig Sager. The flamboyantly outfitted TNT reporter has found himself on the receiving end of a KG trolling countless times over the years. This one in 2007 was good, and this one in 2013 was fantastic, but nothing beats the dressing-down Garnett gave Sager in 2009.
There’s no question that former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb was/is not particularly pleased with the less than dignified circumstances under which his career ended. That’s probably why he’s decided to make a second career as a troll analyst for Fox Sports.
McNabb was traded by the Redskins and has taken even opportunity to dump on former coach Mike Shanahan and eventual replacement Robert Griffin III. He’s bashed Tim Tebow on ESPN's "First Take." He’s bashed his critics. He’s bashed NASCAR drivers on Fox Sports 1's “Fox Sports Live,” insisting they’re “not athletes.”
These days McNabb is operating like a jilted lover with an ax to grind, rather than an objective member of the media. Which is fine, because it’s a lot more entertaining this way.
University of South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier is one heckuva college football coach, but sometimes you have to wonder if he’s only in it for the trolling. He’s been doing both for decades, and the sly smile he shoots when delivering a stunningly biting backhanded compliment or outright diss conveys more smug satisfaction than his smile on the field after a win.
Head Ball Coach has taken aim at countless targets over the years, but there is no one he seems to enjoy trolling more than Dabo Swinney, coach of Carolina’s in-state rival Clemson. The Gamecocks have only played one game in 2014 so far, and it wasn’t against the Tigers, yet HBC has managed to troll Clemson twice already, once on a national stage.
Said Spurrier after defeating Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl, “These two Capital One Bowls in a row are pretty nice, but the state championships ain’t bad either.” Three weeks later he added, “We’ve been fortunate to beat that big, orange team from upstate about five straight years—pretty convincingly.”
Lakers great Kobe Bryant is one of the few athletes in professional sports that you can (almost) always count on to say exactly what’s on his mind, rather than regurgitating mundane cliches and repetitive talking points.
And because what’s on Bryant’s mind is often blunt and biting criticism, sometimes of his own teammates, that also makes him one of the best trolls in professional sports. He never holds back—not even with a lone ESPN cameraman.
Check out The Trolling Kobe Tumblr for some of his greatest moments, both real and imagined.
If troll was a nationality, then ESPN's Skip Bayless would be king. Actually, he'd have to be the queen, since there's one person ahead of him on this list—a person who has beaten Bayless at his own game in the past.
As one of First Take's two resident screamers, it often seems that every position he takes and every point he makes is aimed at irritating as many people as possible. The most obnoxious Bayless trolling in recent years has been of the Tim Tebow variety.
Bayless has been the driver and, often times, the only occupant of #SkipsTebowBandwagon for years now. His unnatural love—or maybe even obsession—is well-documented. But recently Bayless took it to another level, when he insisted Tebow could've taken the Broncos to Super Bowl XLVIII, just the same as Peyton Manning.
Seahawks superstar cornerback Richard Sherman is currently the reigning king of trolls in sports today. Though he recently upped the ante in a big way with his epic trolling of mediocre 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree following the NFC Championship, he’s been on the troll map since October 2012.
That’s when Sherman famously trash-talked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady before and after a loss. Brady told Sherman to come see him after the game—obviously insinuating his Pats would win—and then completely ignored him as he walked off the field after losing in Seattle.
Sherman then shot back with the most pitch-perfect “U Mad Bro?” tweet in the history of “U Mad Bro?” and the history of Twitter. He’s also spent some time in the Twitter mud, lobbing it at Darrelle Revis, although apparently that beef has since been squashed.