Best trash talkers in NBA history.

The Best Trash Talkers in NBA History

        Mental warfare has long been prevalent at all levels of basketball, especially in the NBA. It is a common and integral part of basketball’s culture. Players use trash-talking as a form of psychological warfare to throw opponents off their game. NBA players engage in verbal exchanges to gain a mental advantage over their opponents or fire up their teammates and fans. There are many trash talkers in the NBA, but few can back up their words consistently in high-pressure situations. Here are some of the best trash talkers in the history of the National Basketball Association. 

Michael Jordan

        Michael Jordan was not nearly as savage of a trash-talker as others on this list. Though, no player in NBA history has been able to back up their trash talk as well as him. He is known as a fierce competitor who always backed his words up with legendary performances. MJ was a master of mental warfare who completely demoralized opposing players with his approach. The elite two-way skillset that he possessed made Michael Jordan’s trash talk among the best ever. There may have been better trash talkers in the league then, but nobody could break an opponent’s will the way Michael Jordan could.

        One of the most iconic trash-talking moments in Jordan’s legendary career was when he dunked over Dikembe Mutombo and then stole his signature taunt, staring at Mutombo while waving his index finger from side to side. Another iconic moment came in the 1992 NBA Finals: Jordan hit six straight three-pointers in the first half against Portland. After his sixth three, MJ looked to the cameraman and shrugged his shoulders, creating one of the NBA’s most iconic images. In the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan became ill with the flu before Game 5. He showcased his mental toughness during this game, scoring 38 points and leading the Chicago Bulls to victory. Despite being sick, Jordan dominated the game while simultaneously talking trash to everyone on the court for the Utah Jazz. Michael Jordan could be heard repeatedly telling Byron Russell, “You know what time it is.”

Larry Bird

        Larry Bird was another one of the rare players that could back up almost everything that they said. He was one of the most confident athletes in the history of team sports. Some of his most famous stories took place around the NBA 3-Point Contest. Before the 1986 three-point shooting competition, Bird walked into the locker room where the other competitors gathered and slowly scanned the room. When asked what he was doing, Bird stated that he was trying to figure out who would come in second place that evening. Of course, the legend from Indiana came out victorious in the competition. 

        Dennis Rodman was one of the most feared defenders in NBA history. Though, Larry Bird never shied away from a challenge. In Game 7 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics faced the Detroit Pistons. The bad-boy Pistons were the most feared team in the league then, known for committing hard fouls and an aggressive play-style. Larry Bird began to score at will on Dennis Rodman. He then told Rodman and the Pistons’ coaches that they better switch up that matchup, or he would go for 60 points. Bird led the Celtics to victory in Game 7 by a score of 117-114. Following the series, Dennis Rodman was still angry at Larry Bird, going on to make comments about him to the media that he would later regret. 

Kevin Garnett

        Kevin Garnett is known for being one of the NBA’s most savage trash talkers. According to a handful of former teammates, Garnett is a kind and considerate man off of the court. Despite these accounts, it is clear that the Hall-of-Famer flipped on a switch when it was time to compete. Most basketball players who engage in trash talk have a line they won’t cross. This line did not exist for legendary power forward Kevin Garnett. 

        In 1999, Garnett’s Minnesota Timberwolves matched up against the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. While Tim Duncan went to the line to shoot free throws, Garnett said “Happy Mother’s Day” to him. The sad part is that KG knew Duncan’s mom had passed away nine years earlier from breast cancer. Five-time NBA Champion Tim Duncan still dislikes Garnett for making that comment. 

        Nine years later, the Celtics blew a significant lead in a 2008 regular season game against the Portland Trail Blazers. During a timeout, Garnett savagely went after his teammate Glen Davis, making him cry on the bench during a nationally televised game. The most unpleasant incident occurred during the 2010 season when Kevin Garnett reportedly called Charlie Villanueva a cancer patient. Villanueva suffers from a condition called Alopecia Universalis, which causes hair loss. Garnett would continuously deny this claim over the years, much to the dismay of Villanueva. 

Reggie Miller

        Fans appreciated Reggie Miller for his intensity and being one of the best shooters in NBA history. His notorious trash-talking skills allowed him to gain a psychological edge by getting under his opponents’ skin. Miller’s competitive nature made him a formidable opponent who was ready for the challenge. He never shied away from using his ability to talk trash to gain an advantage on the court. To this day, Reggie Miller is one of the best in NBA history at backing up his words with extraordinary performances.

        During his career, Miller had an intense rivalry with the Knicks, often engaging in banter with their players and fans. One of the most memorable moments came in Game 1 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Miller led the Pacers to a comeback victory by scoring eight points in the final 8.9 seconds of regulation. As the game ended, he exchanged words with Knicks fan and filmmaker Spike Lee. While jogging down the sideline, Miller put his hands on his throat to mock the Knicks for choking. 

Gary Payton

        Gary Payton was another savage trash-talker with little-to-no filter. His ability on the court is what made his audacious mentality so effective. He was a nine-time All-Star, tied for the most All-Defensive First Teams in NBA history with nine. Payton could shut down elite scorers on the defensive end. He could also disrupt opponents mentally and physically and always did his best to accomplish this. While exchanging words with Jamie Feick during a regular season game, Payton responded with one of the best trash talk lines in NBA history, stating, “Man, you won’t even be in the league next year.” 

        Payton is one of the only players who repeatedly talked trash to Michael Jordan. There are many instances of players talking smack to Jordan before immediately realizing their mistake and never trying it again. In Payton’s first preseason game as a rookie, he went right after Michael Jordan while simultaneously talking trash to the league’s most popular star. Though many fans and players found Gary Payton’s trash talk unsavory, he constantly proved his fearlessness and never shied away from anyone in the NBA.

        What do you think about of list of the best trash talkers of all time? Let us know down in the comments.


How many players are there in the NBA?

        There are 450 total players in the NBA. Fifteen roster spots are allocated for all thirty NBA franchises.

How high is a basketball rim?

        A basketball rim is ten feet high, or roughly three meters, at the high school level and above. Youth basketball games are often played on lower rims, typically eight or nine feet tall.

What is an assist in basketball?

        In basketball, an assist is given to a player that passes the ball to a teammate, directly leading to a field goal. For an assist to count, the player receiving the ball must score without taking more than two dribbles or holding the ball for an excessive amount of time.

How many quarters are in basketball?

        There are four quarters of regulation in basketball games. High school basketball quarters are typically eight minutes in length, while NBA quarters are twelve minutes in length.

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