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The Art of Trash Talking in the NBA

Shawn Kemp Gary Payton Michael Jordan

Trash-talking goes hand-in-hand with basketball probably more than any other sport. From Rucker Park in New York City to the Drew League in Los Angeles, part of the entertainment is the verbal sparring that even the public address announcer takes part in.

The culture of verbal put-downs has deep roots in the black community, from African rituals and schoolyard dozens to Jelly Roll Morton lyrics and rap’s eternal crusade against sucker MCs. At best, basketball taunts represent improvisational brilliance and bravado, rising above crude insults to an art form based on creativity, wit, and performance. The first unwritten rule in trash-talking is that whatever happens on the court stays there

So when it comes to talking trash, the names below are one the greatest.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, the greatest player of all-time, was also one of the biggest trash talkers, if not the biggest. His most famous trash-talking moment was against Muggsy Bogues of the Charlotte Hornets. In an important game in the 1995 play-offs, Jordan shouted “shoot you fucking midget” to Bogues. Bogues took the shot anyway, and it turned out to be a brick. Furthermore, the Hornets lost that game and the play-offs. Bogues has said his jump shot never recovered after that.

Charles Barkley

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Barkley was also quite good at trash-talking, and he definitely didn’t stop when he went from NBA player to NBA analyst. Besides that, he also made clear an important factor of rivalry and trash-talking: “I don’t hate anyone, at least not for more than 48 minutes, barring overtime.” Even now, as a member of ‘Inside the NBA’, Barkley can’t stop talking trash about players, clubs, and everyone around him.

Larry Bird

Bird has several memorable trash-talking lines, and most of the time he didn’t even say them directly to an opponent, but to one of his teammates. At one point in his career, Bird pointed to an exact spot on the floor and scored eleven points straight from that exact point. Therefore, Bird didn’t only talk (or in his case ‘point’) trash, but he kept true to his word.

Kevin Garnett

At the beginning of his career, you wouldn’t have expected Garnett would have become one of the biggest trash talkers in the NBA. Especially during his time with the Celtics, Garnett would go full-on crazy, and he even made one of his teammates cry.

Gary Payton

You know the type. The dude who never … ever … stops … talking. Gary Payton gave it to teammates, opponents, and random pedestrians from the hotel to the arena and everywhere in between. Recalled Shaquille O’Neal: “If he saw you in the mall, [he ’d say] ‘Remember that time I crossed you up big fella, and I gave you that thang?’ ” We fully expect Payton to crack on his undertaker’s suit from the afterlife.

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