Smack Talk: The 20 Best Trash Talkers in Sports History

Bell MalleyAnalyst IIISeptember 16, 2011

Smack Talk: The 20 Best Trash Talkers in Sports History

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    Some fans hate trash talkers; others find them as one of the essential part of sports.

    Trash talking is the art of completely getting inside an opponent's head, hurting their game even more than with smothering defense.

    It's not simply talking to the opponent, because a bad trash talker does nothing. A good trash talker though, can ruin the opponents game, make him feel inferior to the player, take away his want to win or make him want to win too much. Trash talking is a science.

    Don't confuse the best trash talkers with the ones who do it the most. Kevin Garnett, though somewhat of a good trash talker, crosses the line and perhaps gets too intense with it, making it go from good trash talking to insanity.

    Some of the best trash talkers ever also happen to be some of the best athletes to ever roam the planet (Jordan), and this is not a mere coincidence. It can rush your own adrenaline, being that small ingredient you need to take over the game.

    Thus, I have counted down in order the 20 best trash talkers and their most famous retort.

Shaquille O'Neal

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    The man of many nicknames is known to fans as the former fun loving big guy of the league, and in many ways he is, but he is also one of the players to get in the most personal feuds of all time.

    There's been Shaq against Van Gundy, Dwight Howard, the whole Sacramento Kings team and, most famously, Kobe Bryant, a trash talk that escalated into a media sensation.

    Most famous trash talk: "Kobe, tell me how my a** tastes."

Shannon Sharpe

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    Shannon Sharpe was one of the original receivers in the NFL who always reminded their respected defenders that they can't cover them.

    And if Sharpe got a TD, you could always expect some sort of unique and fun celebration.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: “I've got a better chance of winning the Kentucky Derby on the back of a donkey than they have of winning the Super Bowl with Kyle Boller.”

Mark Cuban

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    You wouldn't expect to see an owner here; but then again, you wouldn't expect an owner to do a lot of stuff that Mark Cuban would do.

    He generally claims that his is the best team and frequently undermines other teams or opposing players accomplishments.

    This year he looked like a genius—other years he looked like a complete fool.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: Telling Kenyon Martin's mom that her son was a "thug."

Brandon Marshall

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    Brandon Marshall didn't have a lot to trash talk about last season but, in other 1,300 yard years, there was plenty smack talk to go around.

    Marshall saves a lot of his trash talk for after the game, mainly keeping a silent demeanor during it. He has also been checked for his actual mental sanity, showing just how nuts he might have been.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: Directed to Joey Porter—"All those muscles are popcorn muscles, he's soft...(he's) in nightclubs dancing with his shirt off like a girl or in the playground getting beat up back in California."

Terrell Owens

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    Though it's obvious that T.O has the right to trash talk, and it evidently does get in the head of his many attempting defenders, it has also been the reason for his much used description of "Team Killer."

    Off the top of my head, I can't think of many players who talk more during and after the game negatively about other players.

    He just talks about the wrong players sometimes, hurting his team's morale and chemistry.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: He has many more famous lines, "I love me some me," but his most famous trash talk directed at someone probably came last season when he claimed that Darrelle Revis was, "Just an average cornerback."

John Rocker

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    John Rocker may not have has much of a public celebrity status as others on this list, but he still runs his mouth with the best of them. Though this is indeed called the "best trash talkers," I would classify Rocker more of a crazy talker.

    Yet, he does it so much that he still deserves a place on this list.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: “It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the seven train to the ballpark, looking like you’re riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”

    Though it's a trash talk to an entire city and not a player, it's by far his most famous line.

Gary Payton

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    "The Glove" was as famous for his impeccable defense as he was for his smack talk on and off the floor. Many claim that one of his biggest attributes on the opposing side of the ball was not just his knack for getting steals, but also the way in which his talking could get in an opponents head.

    Payton never stopped, even if he was clearly being outplayed, as he infamously would do with Michael Jordan during their games facing each other. Yet, he will go down in history was one of the best trash-talkers of all time, because of how well, and often, he did it. 

    Most Famous Trash Talk: "Man, you won't even be in the league next year."—talking to Nets scrub Jamie Fieck. 

Kevin Garnett

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    Garnett went from being a great trash talker who seldom did it in Minnesota, to an okay trash talker who can't keep his mouth shut in Boston. 

    In a recent poll in Sports Illustrated, Kevin Garnett received an astonishing 62 percent of the votes obtained from other NBA players who were asked the question: Who is the NBA's biggest trash talker?

    K.G. has a tendency to sometimes cross the line whilst talking during the game, but players on his team attribute that to his tremendous fire and intensity on the court. Yet, many around the league said he went way too far when allegations that he called Charlie Villanueva, who, because of a condition had to have chemo therapy and thus has no hair, a "cancer patient" came out via Twitter.

    Garnett denies it, but it doesn't seem like something someone would make up.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: Though no one knows for sure if it was true because it was never caught on camera, his calling Villanueva a cancer patient still deserves this spot. 

Charles Barkley

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    The picture on your left isn't merely a picture of Charles Barkley's backside and Dick Bavetta racing down the court. 

    It's an example of how much Barkley trash talks. Barkley stated that people like Bavetta shouldn't be refs because they could no longer run up and down the court with players, and thus couldn't be as accurate as needed.

    Bavetta then challenged him to a race, and the picture makes it pretty evident how the race went down. The old, "incapable" ref completely and utterly demolished the much younger Barkley in the run. 

    Yet, this was all in good nature, as opposed to many of Barkley's other verbal accusations and numerous trash talking. 

    Most Famous Trash Talk: On Jerry Krause still being able to keep his job as GM of the Chicago Bulls: "Jerry Krause must have pictures of his boss' wife having sex with a monkey."

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    "Money" has brought back a much needed intensity and some great smack talk to the sport of boxing. The third greatest boxing trash talker of all time, and the best (and craziest) one since Tyson, Mayweather was the king of boxing in his prime.

    And he never let people forget that. He made 100 percent sure that he was always way in the head of his opponent and talked trash a lot out of the ring to make the opposing fighter was nervous as heck once the bell rang.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: "When I retire, I’ll get Ricky Hatton to wash my clothes and cut my lawn and buckle my shoes. Ricky Hatton ain’t nothing but a fat man. I’m going to punch him in his beer belly. He ain’t good enough to be my sparring partner.”

Rex Ryan

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    As rare and weird as it is to see a coach on this list, Rex Ryan has to make it. By far the most entertaining press conference coach in the business, after almost every game, Ryan will deliver a line that will begin some sort of feud. 

    He regularly undermines achievements of opposing players and hypes up his own. He's a great coach and makes himself a lot more likable with his "I'll say what's on my mind" mantra. 

    Most Famous Trash Talk: "A number that I think is interesting would be eight, and no, that's not the amount of touchdown passes that Green Bay gave up against Arizona. That's the number of touchdown passes we gave up all season as the Jets, and the biggest reason for that is Darrelle Revis.”

Jim McMahon

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    Jim McMahon was a great quarterback and an even better trash talker. Though sometimes he obviously crossed the lines with his words, he was well respected throughout the league and also feared.

    He led the way for other quarterbacks who, though weaker, could stand up and talk smack to any defensive player in the league. 

    Most Famous Trash Talk: While on the Bears, "Who do I think the Bears should draft? I think the Bears should draft a new owner."

Mike Tyson

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    Mike Tyson was an amazing boxer, but he actually did most of his demolishing of his opponents outside of the ring. I can't even imagine stepping in a fight with someone when they've said that they want to "eat your children."

    Perhaps the most intimidating boxer of all time, the crazy side that once made him the best also led to his demise, as his downfall began with the infamous biting of an ear.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: "Lennox Lewis, I'm coming for you man. My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children!" 

Kobe Bryant

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    The first time Kobe ever met Michael Jordan, the undisputed G.O.A.T. was in his rookie season, one in which he only averaged a minor seven points a game.

    Yet, the first thing that came out of his mouth was, "I can take you in one-on-one."

    Kobe is more mature than he used to be (in his younger days he delivered by far the most smack talk in the league), yet he still has some of the smartest retorts of any basketball player in the league. To make matters worse, say anything to him and get primed for a night of 50 points from one of the best in the game.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: Kobe has so many that it makes it hard to choose from—here are his top three.

    The infamous M.J. quote, "I can take you in one-on-one."

    Saying on national television after his fifth ring, when asked what it meant to him, "I have one more than Shaq. And you can take that one to the bank."

    And my personal favorite: after winning his fifth ring, he got to visit, along with the rest of the Lakers, Barack Obama in the White House.

    Obama told Kobe to watch out, saying "Derrick Rose might have your number."

    Kobe: "If he has my number and he calls it, I'll make sure to answer after the fifth ring."

Reggie Miller

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    Reggie Miller was always one of the league's best trash talkers, but he elevated that to a whole new level every time he would play the Knicks.

    Though he was already infamously a hot head, Reggie Miller could anger John Starks probably more than any other player in the league. Rarely a game against the Knicks would go by where Starks wouldn't start fuming at Miller.

    Reggie also trash talked with Jordan, the single greatest basketball talker of all time (we'll get there later) and regularly held his own.

    And it never hurts your smack talk when you're perhaps the single most clutch player in the game.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: Though it wasn't necessarily talking, it would have to be making the choke sign at Spike Lee after killing the Knicks in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter.

Chad Ochocinco

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    Chad Ochocinco is the master of all on field antics in the NFL, and his trash talks are generally witty, funny and smart, even if most of them make him out to be a much better receiver than he truly is. The example I am about to give defines exactly who the former Chad Johnson is:

    Most Famous Trash Talk: In a letter written to the NFL and all defensive backs, Ochocinco wrote the following—"It is against NFL policy to cover Chad Ochocinco man to man. It has always been a rule but with the events of last year, we must have forgotten who he was. Please note that he is still the most uncoverable receiver in the league. This rule is for the safety of embarrassment to all defensive backs. Thanks! Chad Ochocinco."

Deion Sanders

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    Deion Sanders just talked and talked and talked.

    He would just jaw at receivers before every single play. Then he would simply intercept the pass directed their way and take it in for a TD.

    He knew exactly what to say to his opposition and when they would really want to get him back, he would pull one of his amazing plays on them.

    Most Famous Trash Talk: "Prime Time" doesn't really have a most famous quote because he never really trash-talked to the media. He only did it on the field.

Larry Bird

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    Bird is arguably the best trash talker ever. He was ultra-competitive and had the game to back it up. "Larry Legend" was very confident wherever he went and was always running his mouth. The more amazing thing is that he would always be right with his predictions, which he made more than any other player in the NBA.

    Most Famous Trash-Talk: (Larry had so many, but here are two I think are his best)

    Prior to the three-point shootout in 1986, Bird walked into the locker room, looked around for a while, and then said, "I'm just looking around to see who's gonna finish second."

    Bird once told Chuck Person before a Christmas Day game that he had a Christmas gift for him. Bird dribbled up to Person, who was sitting on the bench, put up a three and then turned Person's way and said, "Merry F*cking Chirstmas."

    He drilled the shot.

Michael Jordan

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    Michael Jordan is unparalleled when it comes to basketball playing. His talk almost lives up to that standard. Over the course of his illustrious career, MJ talked the talk and then backed it up amazingly. If anyone ever tried to disrespect him, he was always ready to back it up, whether it was with his words or his play. He went at it against top player and rookies, such as Dikembe Mutombo, when he told the Nuggets rookie he would shoot a free throw with his eyes closed. After sinking it, he turned to Dikembe and said: "Welcome to the NBA."

    Most Famous Trash-Talk: The Grizzlies were about to win. They were up by eight late in a game with the mighty Chicago Bulls. After Darrick Martin turned to MJ, on the bench, and said, "I told you we would beat your butts tonight," the Bulls superstar came back on, looked at Martin and said "Little man, I told you about talking trash to me." He proceeded to score nine consecutive points and propel Chicago to a win.

Muhammad Ali

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    Just sit back, relax and enjoy some of Ali's best trash-talking moments.