35 Notorious Legends of NBA Trash Talk
There are so many reasons fans are drawn to the NBA. Monster dunks and no-look dimes on basketball’s biggest stage captivate the audience from tip-off to the final buzzer. One of the most underrated aspects of the game, though, is the relentless trash talking.
Nothing simultaneously elevates fans’ love and hatred for a player like his ability to sling a verbal assault. Mean mugging will only get a man so far against the toughest guys in the world, so enforcers must brush up on their vocab. Even the league’s top talent utilizes the technique to gain even the slightest mental edge over an opponent.
Be it subtle or in-your-face, these 35 notorious ballers have left an undeniable footprint on the history of NBA trash talk.
35. Patrick Beverley
Since entering the NBA in 2012, Patrick Beverley has never been one to put up a hefty stat line. But that’s perfectly fine, because he makes up for it by harassing opponents on the other side of the ball – turning NBA trash talk into a sport of its own. The defensive specialist is ruthless, challenging even the most talented guards in the league.
What really elevates Beverley’s signature defensive prowess is his innate ability to talk smack. Whether it’s getting his grill up in the faces of the numerous MVP point guards he takes on, or giving young blood the “Welcome to the NBA” treatment (like he did during Lonzo Ball’s professional debut), Beverley’s motor never stops running.
34. Larry Johnson
No one knows how to give an earful like our dear ol’ Grandmama. From 1991-01, Larry Johnson was a big part of what made the NBA so great. Charlotte fans fondly remember LJ as the freakishly athletic phenom who comprised one-third of a legendary Hornets trio, along with Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning. Faithful New York fans will never forget the four-point play in MSG. Everyone else remembers Johnson as one bad dude.
When LJ had something to say, he made sure he was heard. When Chicago Bulls SF Scottie Pippen called out Johnson’s Knicks, he fired back with an NBA trash talk classic:
“He needs to shut his mouth now. All he needs to do is give the ball to 23 [Michael Jordan]. That’s his best play right there. ‘Here, 23. Bail us out.’ He needs to shut his mouth.”
The versatile forward had the build to back up his words, which made his eccentric persona even more exciting.
33. Darryl Dawkins
Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins brought the boom with his game-changing jams and set the tone for NBA trash talk through the ‘70s and ‘80s. Dr. Dunk didn’t wait around to earn his slew of nicknames – always the wordsmith, he bestowed the title of Chocolate Thunder upon himself and loved naming his dunks (we still use many of the names today).
Dawkins’ old school disses paved the way for adding some extra flavor after an emphatic slam. It was like poetry in motion when he went up for a dunk. After a backboard-breaking throwdown over Bill Robinzine, he was literally dishing poetry with his take on the moment:
“The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam-Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.”
Yeah, that’s next level.
32. Kevin Durant
One might think Kevin Durant, who said he wasn’t a fan of arguably one of the greatest nicknames in sports, The Slim Reaper, wouldn’t be much for talking trash. Don’t be fooled. What sets KD apart is that he’s an open book, willing to speak his mind both on and off the court.
During games, Durant drops classics. For example, his response to a Chris Paul stare down after getting a bucket: “You’re down 20, homie.” Not even his teammates are safe. One of Durant’s most powerful jabs came at the expense of teammate Steph Curry, who is sponsored by Under Armour. KD (rightfully) torched UA kicks so badly that the company’s stock actually took a noticeable dive the next day.
It should be noted that KD’s burner social media account(s?) totally helped him gain notoriety as a trash talker. For better or for worse, KD definitely pioneered a moment in NBA trash talk history.
31. Mark Cuban
Most professional sports team owners prefer to watch the game from their private box. The NBA owners, however, play to their own tune – many prefer to get up close and watch from courtside seats or from the first few rows. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban takes it to the next level, acting like the type of superfan who gets kicked out of games for refusing to let up.
Cuban is as animated as they come, which often leads to him overstepping boundaries and getting in trouble. Since taking over the Mavs in 2000, the billionaire owner has earned over $2 million in fines thanks to his hasty proclivity for issuing proclamations that are unpopular with the NBA front office.
30. Sam Cassell
Sam Cassell was one of the biggest trash talkers in the NBA over the course of his 15-year career. The Baltimore native grew up grinding, so he had to be as tough mentally as he was physically in every practice and game.
What made the scrappy point guard such an impressive trash talker was that he refused to stop. Cassell would chirp in a player’s face all game long to the point of exhaustion – only to nail a huge bucket and throw in his celebratory “Big Balls” taunt.
Keep reading to see what other players had the cojones to talk trash with the biggest and baddest dudes of the NBA.
29. Lance Stephenson
There is something special about Lance Stephenson’s brand of NBA trash talk. It hasn’t earned him any sort of street cred. He isn’t considered a tough guy or bad boy by league standards. It has, however, effectively enraged anyone and everyone from fans to players who have to deal with it (or watch the one-man carnival on TV).
Stephenson’s infamous “ear blow” moment on LeBron James was sort of impressive in its own way. Sure, it was dumb – and immature, to say the least – but that’s part of Stephenson’s grace. Yes, it’s “grace,” because there’s an art to getting under players’ skin. Masters of this, like Stephenson, with the audacity to do something so silly to the greatest in the world, is part of what keeps our eyes glued to the screen.
28. Vernon Maxwell
Vernon Maxwell is just a scary dude. There’s really no getting around it. He practically lived up to his angry-sounding nickname, Mad Max, on a nightly basis. The bottom line is that he was always angry. Always.
Maxwell’s trash talk landed him in heaps of trouble all the time, and it often went beyond simply talking smack. Sometimes, it escalated to literally laying the smackdown on whoever happened to be in his sights. Just ask the fan who Maxwell marched up 12 rows of seats to sock in the face.
Think Maxwell is crazy? Just wait for some of the other foul-mouths coming up.
27. Tim Duncan
Many may be shocked to see Tim Duncan, a.k.a The Big Fundamental, on a list of notorious NBA trash talkers. That’s exactly why he deserves to be here. He’s a silent assassin who did something to opponents that no other NBA baller will likely ever repeat – he killed them with kindness.
Sometimes Duncan would give his patented stare that weirdly mixed looking vacant with angry. Other times it was his signature smile and laugh. His one-liners consisted of roughly two words that always cut like daggers. His greatest mind game of all was complimenting opponents, giving advice and simply being a great guy. It sounds silly, but a number of players have recounted stories of how it messed with their heads.
26. Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah was born without a filter, and that is putting it very nicely. Noah is the prototype of a role player every guy wants on their side, but despises going up against. If there’s one thing Noah’s known for, it’s speaking his mind. What’s on his mind, though, usually happens to make a lot of people unhappy.
Noah doesn’t just talk smack, he embraces the nastiness and oversteps boundaries on a regular basis. The 2014 Defensive Player of the Year has taken on everyone. He “crossed the line” chirping at LeBron James and has enraged entire cities, especially Cleveland. But it’s okay, he has his friends.
25. Spike Lee
Aside from the Staples Center when the Lakers are in town, no arena hosts more famous faces than Madison Square Garden during Knicks games. Standing above the rest (figuratively) is legendary film director and proud New Yorker Spike Lee. It’s safe to say that Lee is one of the most die-hard celebrity fans in all of sports.
Incredibly, the faithful Knicks fan carried out one of the most bitter rivalries in the NBA. His spat with HOFer Reggie Miller was one for the ages, fueling the Pacers-Knicks rivalry throughout the ‘90s, as they continually met in the playoffs.
24. Drazen Petrovic
Drazen Petrovic is a name that would top so many lists, had it not been for a fatal car crash that took his life at age 28. The Croatian sharpshooter’s two years in the NBA are remembered fondly. His three-pointer was considered one of the best in the game. And Petrovic had a fierce competitive drive to go along with it.
Petrovic even spoke on the art of NBA trash talk, and he undeniably had a firm grasp on its magnitude. He utilized it as the greats did, and even did so against those greats. One classic line came when talking about his Eastern Conference rival Reggie Miller:
“Some players didn’t like that, for instance, Reggie Miller. They say they respect me as a player, but that I’m not correct. For Miller, I can understand this, because I often score 30. Maybe that’s what they see as my being incorrect.”
23. Nate Robinson
Nobody can say Nate Robinson never played with fire. In the NBA especially, the little guy always has to bring extra intensity. Robinson brought enough extra to be his own hype man. When you’re a 5-9 wrecking ball who can stuff a 7-6 center like a Thanksgiving turkey, the woofing is a necessary side dish.
What’s great about Robinson’s trash talking style is that he’s a barker. He’d get right up in an opponent’s face (as close as he could reach, at least) and full-on shout. Like so many great high flyers, Robinson thrived in high-intensity moments. Sometimes the best way to get there is to talk it up and create the emotional intensity yourself.
22. Rajon Rondo
There must be something in the Boston air, because donning a Celtics uniform often turns players’ blood into venom. Rajon Rondo exemplifies this. Rondo’s trash talk is less about attempting to gain an edge by insulting people and more about seeming to legitimately hate anyone not named Rajon Rondo.
Rondo has said some nasty things. His trash talking has irked countless opposing teams. But even worse, it’s also caused huge rifts that turned him from a Celtics cornerstone to an NBA journeyman. He’s a lot to handle. His attitude has been a blessing and a curse, and it’s indisputably branded him as a notorious trash talker.
Rondo may win the award for worst attitude to wear the white and green, but as you’ll see, many other Celtics legends have mastered the art of NBA trash talk.
21. Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman. The name alone is enough to simultaneously cause laughter and send shivers through the spine. The adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” needs to be thrown out in this case, because Rodman is every bit as wild as he appears.
What made Rodman’s relentless chirping so scary was the feeling that the garbage he spewed might be followed up with fists at any moment. Often times, it seemed like Rodman had no desire to be on the court other than to pick a fight. He often succeeded.
20. Ron Artest (Metta World Peace)
It’s a fist! It’s an elbow! It’s an ironically named NBA player, Metta World Peace! Metta World Peace – formerly Ron Artest – took a different direction than NFL player Chad Ochocinco when choosing his new moniker. Unlike Ochocinco, whose number was 81 on the field, the last thing World Peace brings to the court is peace.
Admittedly, there’s a bit of an asterisk next to Artest’s trash talking prowess. He’s thrown an ungodly number of dirty elbows and his many fights include the infamous Malice at the Palace. As for his actual NBA trash talk, honestly half may just be him whispering to himself and yelling at voices in his head.
19. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is a relentless talker. Nonstop. He’ll go back and forth with any point guard on him, but where he goes over the top is with the referees. Flip on a game and CP3 will be buzzing in the ear of a nearby ref within minutes.
CP3 not only comes off the wrong way to his opponents, but also to referees. By the time Paul walks off the court, the refs are usually just as red in the face as whatever point guard he just torched. By annoying officials, Paul gets calls – which makes getting called for a foul sting a little more for his opponents.
18. DeMarcus Cousins
When DeMarcus Cousins reaches the end of his NBA journey, he can look back on his career and know that Boogie was one of the best in the game… at getting technical fouls. Boogie has paid enough in fines to feed a small country, but his fiery temper makes it nearly impossible to keep his emotions in check.
In the eyes of refs, Boogie is public enemy number one. Just about everything rubs the big man the wrong way, and he takes it out on everyone. Whoever draws up the paperwork for fines across the league can thank Boogie’s potty mouth for techs on techs on techs that’re paying his checks.
17. Chuck Person
Chuck “The Rifleman” Person was always butting heads with some of the most legendary players to ever step on the hardwood. He always made sure to spew more trash than a junkyard dog, matching his intensity in every game.
Person’s motor mouth was a perfect complement to his standout game. His way with words earned him his fair share of respect amongst the greats like the dirty bird Dominique Wilkins. Larry Bird, who had a little rivalry with Person, even acknowledged that he respected the fire Person brought every day.
16. Joel Embiid
Praise the basketball lords because after missing his entire rookie season and the majority of his second season, Joel Embiid finally got some healthy legs under him. If not known for his elite game, The Process has at least brought NBA trash talk back for fans.
Trash talking has become a highlight of Embiid’s (unofficially official) welcome to the NBA tour through the 2017-18 season. There’s always a story about who he dissed and whether he got under the player’s skin. During games, in press conferences, on twitter, it doesn’t matter. The Process talks the talk whenever and wherever people will listen – which is always and everywhere.
15. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook’s entire NBA career is a blur. Seriously, Mr. Hustle-With-All-That-Muscle-Chestbrook looks like he’s playing on fast forward while everyone else moves in slow motion. Along with an intensity that’s exhausting just to watch, he brings it equally hard with the trash talk.
Westbrook constantly jaws with his opponents, teammates, coaches, refs, the entire world. When Kevin Durant left OKC, high emotions took his talk to a new heights. Westbrook is so next level, he can simply respond, “Your mom” and it’s actually a legitimate, hilarious comeback. That’s called talent.
14. Stephen Jackson
Over the course of Stephen Jackson’s 14-year career, the NBA journeyman played with eight different teams. One constant, though, was the promise that Stack would give the other team the business and talk ’til his jaw hurt.
A (dis)honorary member of the Malice in the Palace as a Pacer, Jackson willingly embraced the tough guy role. Since the NBA simply couldn’t satiate Stack’s desire to talk smack, he took his talents to the mic. He even dropped a rap album under the name Stak5. In his post-NBA days, Jackson gets his fix by trashing foes in the BIG3.
13. Bill Laimbeer
Bill Laimbeer is widely regarded as the dirtiest player in NBA history. In Laimbeer’s case, that’s actually a good thing; his big mouth got him into quite a few tangles over his 14-year career. To put it politely, Laimbeer wasn’t too popular outside Detroit.
As one of the “Bad Boys” on the Detroit Pistons, Laimbeer set the tone for that title. Laimbeer’s notorious reputation was so legendary that Super Nintendo actually released a game in 1991 called Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball. This alone should justify Laimbeer’s place in NBA trash talk history (not to mention technology).
12. Paul Pierce
Paul “The Truth” Pierce lived up to his nickname by keeping it real, especially if that meant offending his opponent. If the Celtics hung a banner from the rafters to commemorate one-liners, Pierce might need an entire banner to himself.
There was the classic playoffs moment against the Pacers in ‘03. Pierce could be seen jawing with Al Harrington before burying a deep three in his eye. Pierce outdid that huge bucket with the Wizards in ’15. When asked if he “called bank” on his game-winning shot in the playoffs, Pierce responded truthfully, “I called game.”
Read on for more NBA ballers who spit the The Truth in its foulest form.
11. Allen Iverson
The step over. It will live on as one of the greatest moments in the history of NBA trash talk, and Allen Iverson never even had to say a word. It was only a microcosm of the great back and forth between AI and Kobe in the 2001 Finals, but it speaks volumes about Iverson’s ferocity.
AI had a killer instinct. His undersized frame was almost entirely forgotten when the ball was in his hands. His ability to torch players with his handles was unfathomable. Iverson’s scrappy attitude wouldn’t allow his skills alone to shame his opponents, so he always made sure to give an earful to his man… and refs… and coaches… and fans.
10. Draymond Green
Draymond Green isn’t necessarily changing the game of NBA trash talk, but he is undoubtedly revamping it. Green’s loud, trash-talking mouth gives NBA fans (other than GSW fans) something they desperately crave: a villain to hate.
The NBA may not be as rough and rowdy as it was back in the Bad Boys heyday, but Green is bringing mean back in a big way. Like Rodman and many greats who talked the talk and walked the walk, Green is eternally undersized. He’s also eternally determined to get under his man’s skin. Must be a champ thing.
9. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal let his game do the talking when he was on the court. Breaking backboards and beasting whoever was stuck defending him was the only intimidation Shaq Daddy needed to assert his dominance. But off the court? Basketball lords, have mercy.
When Shaq wasn’t playing ball, he was running his mouth – and still is today. He drops diss tracks, invents witty nicknames, and enjoys his favorite pastime: pouring gasoline on his fiery beef with former teammate Kobe. The Diesel was (and still is) pure entertainment any time he’s on the mic.
8. Reggie Miller
Scrawny, obnoxious, and deadly. Reggie Miller had a special knack for making himself a hated opponent. Miller’s outside shot put him right up there with the greatest shooters of all time. Yet Miller didn’t let his talent obstruct his desire to get up close and personal and make opponents mad.
Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Drazen Petrovic were a few of the big names who would’ve loved to shut Miller up with a fist. Among many notable moments throughout his career, arguably the most iconic came during the ’94 playoffs. Miller torched the Knicks, dropping 39 points and giving superfan Spike Lee the choke sign.
7. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is one of the most intense competitors to have ever stepped onto a pro basketball court. Of course, it’s no surprise that he was notorious for his NBA trash talk, too. Kobe spit venom at anyone who stepped in his path.
Kobe’s legendary tongue lashings were not simply for his opponent; anyone was fair game. No one was safe from the Mamba’s ruthless trash talk; he even turned against teammates like Shaq and Smush Parker. Bryant’s “me against the world” mentality had everyone thinking, “No. 8, No. 24, I hate you.”
6. Charles Barkley
Like all of the greats, Charles Barkley was all-inclusive when it came to talking smack. The entire world was merely a blank canvas for him to paint with colorful insults. For Sir Charles, NBA trash talk wasn’t a vitriolic spewing of filth as it was for others, it was just part of the culture.
Barkley’s 6-6 frame is grossly undersized for a power forward. As we’ve seen, this meant running his mouth was a necessary evil to assert dominance in the paint. People could be disgusted by Barkley’s recklessly loose verbiage all they wanted, but he paid no heed. Barkley made his opinion clear when he told the world, “I am not a role model.”
5. Rasheed Wallace
Despite all the accolades Rasheed Wallace has earned, one thing he’ll always be remembered for is his legendary smack talk. Wallace was a member of the infamous “Jail Blazers” team that embraced the nasty. He brought that edge to the Detroit Pistons, where he won a chip and refused to clean that dirty mouth throughout his 16-year career.
Playing into the fun was part of Wallace’s great NBA trash talk. When refs inevitably called his techs with an emphatic “T,” fans would cry “Sheeeeed” as if he’d made big play. No matter how many techs, fights, and ejections Sheed piled up, they were worth it, especially if they led to free throws.
One missed free throw and Sheed would gift fans with the cutting line, “Ball don’t lie!”
4. Gary Payton
Gary “The Glove” Payton must love the sound of his own voice, because he never stopped talking. The Glove earned his nickname from his lockdown defense, but running his mouth was equally important for GP as he went up against the greats.
One of the golden rules of NBA trash talk is to leave the family out of it. GP noted, “If I knew something about a person’s mother, I knew something about his sister. If he had just got a drunk driving charge, I would go at that situation. It might be cruel to some people, but I would go at it.” Even Payton’s teammate in Seattle once said of him, “You just want to go find a library or something. Someplace totally quiet.” Now that’s a man that can talk an ear off.
3. Kevin Garnett
No one has compiled a longer list of nasty NBA trash talk on the court than Kevin Garnett. The Big Ticket was ruthless. His demeanor was terrifying, like he was ready for war. KG was an animal, barking in his teammates’ faces to get them hyped and mouthing off to opponents.
Garnett has uttered enough unforgettably horrible quotes to write a full-length novel. While finding any that aren’t laced with profanity is harder than finding a needle in a haystack, two stand out. There was the time KG told Charlie Villanueva, who suffers from alopecia, that he looks like a cancer patient. Another horrific classic was when Garnet told Carmelo Anthony that Anthony’s celebrity wife LaLa “tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios.”
It’s cruel; it’s cringeworthy; it’s… KG.
2. Larry Bird
Larry Bird was truly one of a kind. On the court, Larry Legend was a god, and he was a cruel one at that. Bird had a propensity for pissing off his opponents. Most ’80s and early ’90s players can recall being humbled by No. 33 as one of their most memorable moments.
The Hick from French Lick looked so innocuous, yet his one-liners cut like a knife. One of the best things about Bird’s NBA trash talk was how it almost always directly related to his game. He loved to tell players how many points he was going to drop on them, for example.
Once, he walked into the locker room before the Three-Point Contest and asked the group, “Which one of you guys is finishing second?” Larry Legend is a winner. And he liked to make sure his opponents knew it.
1. Michael Jordan
The number of stories recalling Michael Jordan’s devastating NBA trash talk is staggering. MJ deserves to be on the Mount Rushmore of NBA legends (if not the GOAT). It makes sense that he did some impressive trash talking to back up his skills.
Jordan is known as a notorious competitor on and off the court. If it gives him an edge, MJ is in. That’s why he dropped some of the nastiest lines to ever hit the hardwood. There was the time a rookie Reggie Miller thought he could take down the king. Miller chirped that “there’s a new kid in town. After dropping 44 to Miller’s 12, MJ said, “Be sure, and be careful, you never talk to Black Jesus like that.”
Jordan can also take credit for what is likely the only time NBA trash talk was so epic that it actually led to the downfall of a great player’s career. It was an iconic moment in the ’95 playoffs between the Hornets and Bulls. Jordan was guarding 5-3 Muggsy Bogues to close out the game. Bogues had a horrible shooting night (2-12), so MJ gave him space and said, “Shoot it you f***ing midget.”
Bogues bricked bad. Charlotte lost by one. Bogues reportedly told then-head coach Johnny Bach that his shot never recovered. Ruthless.
Have friends who think they can talk some trash at the park? Share this notorious list and show them who to model their dirty mouths after!