Can You Identify These Legendary NBA Trash Talkers?

By: Beth Hendricks
Image: Wiki Commons by Keith Allison

About This Quiz

Michael Jordan, at his prime during his Chicago Bulls days, is widely regarded by many as the greatest to have ever played in the NBA. His career numbers are ones that every player who enters the NBA longs for: 30 points per game, along with six rebounds and five assists. His list of accomplishments is a mile long and includes six NBA titles and being named the NBA scoring champion 10 different times. But, one of Jordan's most well-known career accomplishments lives outside the record books, and that's his reputation for being a champion-caliber trash talker.

Trash talk in the NBA (or any sport, for that matter) is nothing new, but Jordan ranks near the top of most every "All-Time NBA Trash Talkers" list. He once famously said to fellow NBA star and then-rookie Reggie Miller, after outscoring him 40-2, "Be sure, and be careful, you never talk to Black Jesus like that." For the record, Miller went on to be a pretty skilled trash talker himself.

So, let's take a walk through the annals of NBA history and see who "talked the (trash) talk" the best. Look at these hints and see if you can guess who was the trashiest trash talker of all time, from Black Jesus to some of today's most promising candidates for the Top Trash Talker title.

Russell Westbrook has been aboard the Oklahoma City Thunder since 2008 and has seen his fair share of teammates come and go over the years. That's enough to make anyone salty, but Westbrook claims he won't trash talk for no reason. Instead, he asserts that he will spout off if someone is talking crazy to him.

Stephen Jackson was playing for the Bobcats (now the Hornets) when Jordan (who owns the team) decided to play in a pick-up game with the current players. Jackson was quick to let Jordan know that the past was just that and he would manhandle him now. Jackson later admitted he lost that battle.

"Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball" hit store shelves in 1991, an invention of Nintendo that drew on Laimbeer's reputation as one of the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons. The Pistons retired Laimbeer's jersey in 1995.

Paul Pierce's tenure in the NBA just so happened to coincide with a period of intense trash talk. One of his most infamous moments came when he sank a game-winning shot against Al Harrington, calling "game" on a heated match-up.

Allen Iverson's infamous (and literal) step over the Lakers' Tyronn Lue after making a long two will go down in history as a trash talk highlight that didn't involve any words at all. The movement highlighted the trash talk that had gone on throughout the first game of the 2001 Finals.

Draymond Green has quickly climbed the NBA's well-known trash talkers list, but even he realized he was out of his league when going up against career-long San Antonio Spur, Tim Duncan. Green recounted an attempt to get under Duncan's skin, which Duncan didn't respond to. Green said Duncan's lack of reaction was enough for him to never try it again.

Though the comment that would probably get him in immense trouble today, Shaq was well-known for his trash-talking jabs during his playing days, including a diss intended toward the Sacramento Kings. Shaq later apologized, but now a broadcaster, he still finds ways to take jabs.

Reggie Miller's choke sign, aimed at film director Spike Lee – an avid Knicks fan – came following a 1994 playoff game in which Miller racked up nearly 40 points. Miller took the opportunity to turn his trash talk to the Knicks' famous sideline presence.

Kobe Bryant played no favorites when it came to talking trash. It might have been an opponent or, just as likely, a teammate that drew Kobe's ire. Once, he said one of his teammate's shouldn't have been playing in the NBA.

Charles Barkley's belief was that trash talk was part of the game and served to get inside the opponent's head. When people would get upset over his comments, Barkley would simply tell them he wasn't a role model. His opinionated ways sometimes still come out as a broadcaster.

Rasheed Wallace's trash talk didn't sit well with NBA officials, who would frequently throw a technical foul in the Detroit Pistons' direction. Fans thought it pretty comical, however, belting out "Sheeeeeed!" every time like a badge of honor.

Gary Payton's trash talk game knew no bounds; it extended beyond opposing players to coaches on opposing sidelines. He once told former Timberwolves coach, Sidney Lowe: "Sit down, you Smurf!"

Kevin Garnett would go straight for the jugular with his trash talk. Some of his more infamous moments include telling a player with alopecia that he looked like a cancer patient, and making an R-rated comment about Carmelo's wife and Honey Nut Cheerios. (Google that one.)

Tales of Larry Bird's savage trash talk are told far and wide, including one particularly lethal story where he predicted his three-point shot to end – and win – the game. While the ball is still in the air, Bird turns to the opposing bench and yells, "Told you so," and trots straight to the locker room.

With Jordan at the free throw line in a 1991 game against the Denver Nuggets, His Airness threw a little trash talk Dikembe Mutombo's way, saying "This one's for you," and making a free throw with his eyes closed.

Joel Embiid has helped revive the trash talk the NBA has long been known for (but had somewhat tapered off) since entering the league in 2014. Embiid has been known to trash talk the entire game and then continue his chatter on social media.

DeMarcus Cousins' pre-game trash talk warm-up with Enes Kanter earned him a bit of extra attention from the officials once the game kicked off. The NBA heard about the pairs' interaction hours ahead of the tip and made sure the officials knew.

Chris Paul has been known as quite the talker during games; in fact, he is well known for talking all game long, including to fans he hears in the stands. One fan got an invitation to "bite" Paul.

Just a few months ago, cameras caught up to Dennis Rodman, who never misses an opportunity to talk trash. This one may have been warranted, however, directed at Joel Embiid's opinion of Michael Jordan as the GOAT.

So much for having the word "peace" in your name! After elbowing James Harden (for which he received a suspension), Metta World Peace told the press he wouldn't shake Harden's hand because, "I don't shake substitutes' hands." Alrighty then.

When asked by the media about the game's biggest trash talkers, Steph Curry knew his pick: Nate Robinson. Curry said when Robinson was a Warrior that he would talk trash everywhere, from the locker room to an airplane.

Lance Stephenson is an epic trash-talker but was never able to get a reaction from one of the league's best: LeBron. There was one time, however, that must have pushed James over the edge. He he looked at Stephenson and responded, "What is wrong with you?"

Tim Duncan was often referred to as the quiet assassin during his playing days, but that doesn't mean he wasn't able to dish the trash. Duncan preferred his signature sly, in-game smile or laugh to let opponents know how he was really feeling.

Kevin Durant's trash-talking game has grown over the past few years. One recent episode saw him return a staredown from Chris Paul with the quip, "You're down 20, homie." Ouch.

Darryl Dawkins' trash talk typically involved dunking over an opponent and then introducing that opponent to the dunk's on-the-fly name. One, in particular, stood out: “The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam-Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.” Say that three times fast.

Larry Johnson had had enough of Scottie Pippen's trash talk and finally decided to clap back with some commentary of his own. Johnson went for the jugular, telling Pippen to just "give the ball to 23 to bail you out," a reference to Pippen's teammate, Michael Jordan.

Gary Payton's record as a trash talker was well-known throughout the NBA, but Payton used to make it personal. He would attack players' personal situations -- or even family members -- when trying to get under another person's skin.

Patrick Beverley's war of words with Kevin Durant got them both ejected from game 1 of the playoffs' opening round. When asked about it later, Beverley continued his terse talk, saying, "I can’t say, I might get fined."

For Xavier McDaniel, intimidating other players through his trash talk was just a part of the job. McDaniel, who had more than a dozen actual fights during his rookie season, said he had to send a message to other players that he wasn't one to back down.

Joakim Noah likely isn't welcome in Cleveland anytime soon. He doubled down on his "Cleveland sucks" comment, adding, "Every time I look out my windows, it’s pretty depressing here, man. It’s bad. It’s bad." Tell us how you really feel, Joakim.

Scottie Pippen delivered perhaps one of the best trash talk lines of all time, using Malone's nickname, "The Mailman." Malone earned the nickname in college because he always delivered, but Pippen clearly thought otherwise.

Former Knick John Starks was known as a pretty good trash talker in his day, and it apparently hasn't ended. Not too long ago, he gave his take on some current players' behavior, saying, "... he would probably have gotten checked real quick for his antics.”

Chuck Person had a mouth on him, that's for sure. But, he backed up his talk with his play, earning him the respect of legends like Larry Bird. Bird said of Person that he appreciated the fire Person brought to the court.

Charles Oakley is still gunning for Charles Barkley, taking pot shots at the now-broadcaster for "hiding" behind his TV gig. Oakley pulled no punches, telling Barkley he was never tough when the two met on the court.

Patrick Ewing knew a thing or two about playing with some great athletes, having been a part of Dream Team in 1992. Yet, Ewing said he never would have tried to unite all of those players on the same team, as the NBA is somewhat experiencing today, because of great rivalries that existed in his day.

Rajon Rondo has been well-known throughout his career as one to dish out plenty of trash talk. As a teammate to Lonzo Ball, Rondo has admitted to using his trash talk on his own team to help motivate the NBA newcomer.

The most famous feuds film director Spike Lee engaged in were clashes with Reggie Miller. Though Miller has moved on from the NBA, Knicks superfan Lee continues to engage in a war of words with plenty of current players.

For most people, nearly $3 million in fines would be an insurmountable expense to pay. For Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, it's just another day at the office. Cuban's verbal tirades know no boundaries. He's directed them at officials and said controversial things in the media.

Cheryl and Reggie Miller, the first brother-sister duo in the Basketball Hall of Fame, used to talk trash to each other as only siblings can. Though they never met on the court, it didn't stop the pair from taking jabs at one another when they could.

Maybe he earned it for all the success he had. Former coach Phil Jackson wasn't known for shying away from turning up the trash talk, taking players, fans and even team owners to task whenever he felt like it.

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