If you’ve ever played on a basketball court, you likely have been subjected to hearing an earful of trash talk. Smack talking is part of any competitive sport and it’s particularly common in the game of basketball. To succeed on the basketball court you have to be able to take trash talk in stride and not let it affect your game. Players who let someone’s jawing get under their skin tend to play emotional, and more often than not an emotional player is an ineffective player.
Some of the greatest trash talkers in the game have been the most successful—Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton and Reggie Miller are some of the masters of taking their opponents’ heads out of the game with only a few words.
However there have been times when trash talking has resulted in the perpetrator being greatly humbled for his jibber-jabber. History has shown that a man’s trash talk—whether it’s guaranteeing a victory or underestimating a competitor—very often can and will come back to bite them in the rear end.
Here at TheSportster we have compiled a list of moments when a player, an annoying fan or team had to eat their words and learned that if you feel the need to talk a bunch of smack, you better be able to back it up.
15. Jose Calderon Gives KG A Taste Of His Own Medicine
One of the greatest trash talkers to play the game is the Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett. It would be wise for any player to avoid getting into a war of words with KG but Spanish point guard Jose Calderon went against conventional wisdom and may have gotten some respect for it.
In a 2008 regular season game between Garnett’s Boston Celtics and Calderon’s Toronto Raptors, Garnett would guard Calderon the length of the court at one point, taunting him mercilessly the entire time. KG would even wag his finger at Calderon, teasing him, trying to throw the point guard off his game and create a turnover.
Would Calderon take the bait and turn the ball over? Nope. He would actually control the ball perfectly and pass the ball for an assist off of a three pointer. The Celtics would go to time out and Calderon would get in Garnett’s face and give him a taste of his own medicine with some trash talk of his own. It was a fun exchange that reminded us of a fierce game of playground pick-up ball.
14. Purple Shirt Guy Sets Off Dwyane Wade
Sometimes the biggest trash talkers are ones that aren’t even on the court playing the game. This was certainly the case in the 2016 NBA Playoffs when a Charlotte Hornet fan in the crowd started getting on the nerves of Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade—and cost his favorite team the game.
The man, who is affectionately known on the internet as “Purple Shirt Guy” was giving Dwyane Wade so much hell at courtside that Wade couldn’t ignore him any further. Wade, who was playing distributor for most of the game, kept the ball for himself in the final four minutes of the game where he would score eight points, a steal, a block and drew a crucial foul. The icing on the cake was Wade getting in the hecklers face to let him know who’s boss just after hitting a dagger that sealed the game in favor of the Heat. The Heat would ultimately eliminate the Hornets in the first round.
Charlotte fans had long waited for the Hornets to get back into the playoffs but they have Purple Shirt Guy to thank for not letting the team see more postseason success.
13. Al Harrington Dares Pierce To Shoot, Pierce Hits It In His Face
Paul Pierce has made a career out of hushing crowds and players with his killer instinct that he earned the nickname “The Truth” for his stellar play. When it comes to trash talk, Paul Pierce is known to both dish it out and take it. One notable time where his nickname was personified in full display was during the 2003 Playoffs in the Boston Celtic series versus the Indiana Pacers.
Pacers swingman Al Harrington decided to challenge The Truth in the final possession while they were leading. With the ball in Pierce’s hands at the three point line and Harrington guarding Pierce closely, Harrington would begin to talk trash, daring Pierce to shoot. Pierce would talk back and at the last possible moment would nail a jumper right in Harrington’s face which would decide the game. Talk about a dagger, both to the game and to Harrington’s mouth.
12. Mo Williams Guarantees Cavs Will Beat The Magic; Orlando Wins Series
When conducting media interviews, players usually try to play it safe when it comes to making predictions and commenting on their opponents. Most of the time the customary approach is to talk up the opponent and just hope for the best. Making bold predictions is usually not a wise decision.
Struggling point guard for the Cavaliers Mo Williams would make an arrogant statement while his team was trailing in the playoffs 2-1 to the Orlando Magic. Williams may have had good reason to be confident in himself and his team; the Cavaliers had a league leading 66 wins that season and swept their opponents in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“We’re the best team in basketball,” Williams would say to reporters. “Guarantee we’re going to win the series? Yeah, yeah,” he said. “We are down 2-1. But there is nobody on this team and definitely not myself that says we are not going to win this series.” Williams would have to eat his words as the Magic would take the series in 6 games.
11. Magic Johnson Talking Trash To Jordan At 1992 Olympics Scrimmage
While this entry may have not taken place during the course of the NBA season, it is noteworthy nevertheless. Magic Johnson recalled an interesting story during his visit to the set of Jimmy Kimmel’s late night talk show to discuss a time he trash talked Michael Jordan and immediately regretted it.
The trash talk took place during a legendary scrimmage between the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. Johnson’s squad was going against Jordan’s and when Magic’s team got an early lead, Johnson’s trash talk changed the complexion of the game:
“We got out on them about 12-2, and I thought, “I’m gonna really rattle his chain.” I went over there and tapped him on his shoulder, and said, “Hey man, if you don’t turn into Air Jordan, we’re going to blow you out today.”
Johnson would continue, “…his eyes got big, usually that tongue’s about right here, it comes out (like this). He broke the huddle and he hit a three and he’s looking at me. So he came down again, hit another three.”
Jordan’s team would go on to torch Magic’s in what Magic described as one of the greatest games he had ever been a part of. If there’s anything to take away from this entry, it’s something that’s glaringly obvious: Don’t Talk Trash to Michael Jordan.
10. Paul Pierce Yells “Series” To ATL Bench In 2015; Wizards lose
On the basketball court, there’s no better feeling than shutting up a loudmouth trash talker. As we saw earlier in the list, Paul Pierce revels in shutting up trash talkers and hushing crowds with his clutch play. He’s made a fine career out of deflating rabid crowds with clutch jumpers. However there was one instance where his prediction wasn’t actually “The Truth”.
In the 2015 Playoffs, Paul Pierce, as part of the Washington Wizards, was doing battle with the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Pierce was having a fine series, having drilled a game-winning shot in game 3. In game 4, he would brick the game winning shot, failing to repeat his success. In game 5, he had a chance to redeem himself and would drill a clutch three pointer with 8 seconds left on the clock to put the Wizards ahead by one. It was here that Pierce would put his foot in his mouth by declaring the game over to the Atlanta Hawks bench.
“Series!” Pierce would brashly say to the Hawks after the jumper hit, putting the Wizards up 81-80. After the timeout, the Hawks would have possession and Al Horford would heroically hit a buzzer beating jumper to win the game. The Wizards would go on to lose the series. The saying goes, it ain’t over til it’s over. For Paul Pierce, that “Truth” hurts.
9. LeBron Promises Lots of Championships, Royally Denied In NBA Finals
In 2010, coveted free agent LeBron James shocked the world when he announced on live television that he would be “taking his talents to South Beach”, leaving his longtime home in Cleveland for the Miami Heat. The grandstanding and media spectable of his offseason move by putting together a televised special entitled “The Decision” made LeBron out to be full of himself and garnered lots of hate from Cavalier fans and basketball fans worldwide.
LeBron would add fuel to the fire the following night when a celebration was held in Miami outside of the American Airlines arena with the Heat’s latest acquisitions LeBron and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade on stage in front of screaming fans. LeBron would famously state that the trio would have an easy time against the rest of the teams in the league and promised “Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships.
Though LeBron was partly exaggerating, the comment sent ripples through the rest of the league. The Heat had a target on their backs and they were booed mercilessly at every arena on the road. LeBron would fail on his promise for a championship that first year in a heartwrenching loss in the NBA Finals that year, humbling the King and bringing him back down to earth. The Heat would eventually win back to back championships but they, and LeBron especially, learned really quickly it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
8. Shaq Mocks Yao Ming And Gets Humbled
Yao Ming was the 7’6 prospect from China. When the Houston Rockets selected him as the No. 1 pick, Yao’s life would change as he would start the next chapter of his life and basketball career by journeying to the USA.
Being a number one pick is a heavy burden to hold as it comes with intense scrutiny and it didn’t help that Yao was a foreigner who couldn’t speak English. Very quickly Yao had to learn to adapt to the NBA style of play and the elite competition. Yao would struggle to gain respect as a center and his first big test would be against the most dominant center to play the game in Shaquille O’Neal.
Prior to their first meeting though, Shaq would create controversy by not only stating that he would embarrass Yao Ming on the court, but also mocked the Chinese language when he said, “Tell Yao Ming, I said ‘ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh.’” The comments created harsh backlash from Asians worldwide who called Shaq a racist. Yao Ming responded with class stating he was sure Shaq was just joking.
The much anticipated first matchup drew high viewership and ratings as Yao Ming would start the game by blocking Shaq’s first three shot attempts. Yao would end up gaining a win for the Rockets and most of all, Shaq’s respect.
7. Draymond Green Talks Trash to Tim Duncan and Gets Shut Down
Draymond Green has been a pleasant surprise for the Golden State Warriors. A second round pick and 35th overall, Green has emerged as a marquee Power Forward for the Warriors and instrumental in the Warriors championship run and record making year in 2016. On top of being a scrappy player that’s a terror on both ends of the floor, Green is also known for his passion on the court and his trash talk.
However, there is one player that Draymond would not trash talk against and that is legendary Power Forward and recent retiree Tim Duncan after receiving a silent death stare from the Spurs veteran which shut down the cocky Draymond in his rookie season.
“My rookie year I kind of talked junk to everybody. In the middle of the game I started talking to Tim… and he kind of just stared at me. I just kept talking junk to him and he kept staring at me…” Draymond would continue the anecdote with, “At that point I realized during the rest of my career that I might as well not talk to him… I figured then that was the last time I would talk junk to Tim. And that was the last time.”
6. T-mac Gets Ahead Of Himself; Pistons Destroy Him
The NBA playoffs is a long grind. They call it a series for a reason. You have to win four games, and even if you have a sizeable lead, it isn’t over until you have a 4 in the win column. Someone probably should have reminded Tracy McGrady of that in 2003 when he began gloating about winning a playoff series before it was over with.
In the 2003 playoffs, Orlando Magic star Tracy McGrady would make headlines when he prematurely made the assumption that Orlando were guaranteed to advance to the second round past the rugged Detroit Pistons after establishing a 3-1 series lead. In a post-game interview McGrady would state , “It feels good to get in the second round.”
The audacity! The Detroit Pistons were none too pleased with that type of talk and would send a message for McGrady that was basically translated on the court as “Not so fast!” The Pistons would win three straight games and send the Magic packing. This quote apparently would haunt McGrady for the rest of his career as he would be witness to numerous first round playoff exits until his retirement year when he finally made it past the first round to the NBA Finals with the Spurs, albeit that was playing bit minutes of garbage time as a third string roleplayer.
5. Bosh’s Girlfriend Won’t Shut Up, LeBron goes Nuts In The 4th Quarter
Before they were teammates winning championships together on the Miami Heat, Chris Bosh and LeBron James were friendly rivals on the court with Bosh on the Raptors and LeBron on the Cavs. During a game in 2008, Bosh and his Raptors would be getting the better of LeBron and the Cavaliers when some trash talking changed everything. Who were the culprits? Chris Bosh’s girlfriend and cousin.
LeBron was having a terrible game, missing shots and even dunks. Through three quarters he was 6 for 19 and was getting an earful from the two ladies at courtside that started really getting on his nerves. In the fourth quarter, however, he would get the last laugh.
LeBron would erupt for 24 fourth quarter points and would go on to win the game. James would even single out and point at the two women stating, “It’s your fault, this is because of you.”
LeBron’s final stat line would be a monster 39,11 and 8. In the post-game interviews he’d mention Bosh’s girlfriend and cousin, “Yeah they the reason why the Raptors lost tonight.” LeBron said, “Because they ticked me off a bit.”
4. James Harden Says Warriors “Ain’t Even That Good” -Comes Back To Haunt Him
First coming to prominence as a 6th man for the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden has emerged as a franchise player for the Houston Rockets. However, as unstoppable as Harden seems to be on the offensive end for opposing teams, his kryptonite seems to be the Golden State Warriors.
In early 2015, which happens to be the season the Warriors won the NBA Championship, the Rockets were set to play a regular season matchup against the Warriors, who had already beaten them during the season 2 times already. In the pre-game huddle, James Harden was caught on camera with some choice words for the Warriors he would surely come to regret.
“They beat us twice already,” James would say to his teammates , “They ain’t even that good, man. Let’s go.” Ouch. Later that night, the Warriors would blow out the Rockets 131-106. It didn’t end there as the Warriors would go on to sweep the season series. In the playoffs, Harden and the Rockets weren’t safe as the Warriors would obliterate them and end their impressive playoff run in 5 games.
The following season? More of the same. The Warriors would do another 4 game season sweep and a 5 game annihilation that led to a first round exit for the Rockets. That ain’t even that good James? Really?
3. Charles Barkley Makes A Wager and Loses; Kisses Donkey
Yao Ming is once again the subject of trash talk and once again defied the naysayers and made a case that his game should be respected, this time in the form of TNT’s longtime analyst Charles Barkley. In Yao Ming’s rookie season, Barkley was highly critical of Yao Ming and would claim that Yao Ming was a bust as a #1 first round draft pick. Yao would struggle early on in his rookie campaign, leading Barkley wager a bet against fellow analyst Kenny Smith that if Yao Ming scores 19 points this season, he would kiss Kenny Smith’s ass on National TV.
Soon thereafter Yao would score 20 points against the Lakers, forcing Barkley to honor his word. Kenny Smith would rent a donkey to bring onto the show’s set, stating that Barkley kissing him anywhere is flagrant, so he had to think of something else. Barkley would plant a smack on the rear end of a donkey the same night that Yao would post a 31 point performance. Barkley would give respect to Yao’s improvement and admitted that he made an ass of himself with his trash talking.
2. Warriors Anger LeBron, Blow Championship Repeat
In the 2016 Playoffs the Golden State Warriors were heavily favored to win another championship trophy against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They had made a pretty good case for themselves, having beaten the Cavaliers one year prior in the 2015 Finals and having had an even better year than before, shattering records left and right including winning 73-9 in the regular season.
The Cavs were definitely the underdog and showed it when they went down 3-1 in the series. LeBron James was doing his best to carry his team and was getting worn down by the physical play of the Warriors, Draymond Green in particular. At one point, Draymond would start trash talking LeBron, going so far as to call him a “B****” repeatedly to his face which led to a heated altercation.
When asked about the incident, Warriors teammate would poke at LeBron even more by offering his thoughts about LeBron’s frustration with Draymond. “I guess he got his feelings hurt.” Those words may have been what fueled the Cavaliers and LeBron for the rest of the series as the Cavs would go on to upset the defending champs in a historic Finals comeback, winning the next three games and taking the crown.
1. Spike Lee’s Smack Talk Brings About Famous Reggie Miller “Choke” Game
Spike Lee is a Hollywood director of many critically acclaimed films like Malcolm X and Do The Right Thing but he’s mostly known as the Jack Nicholson super-fan of the New York Knicks, seated front row season after season at nearly every Knicks home game.
Having the luxury of being seated front row, Spike Lee’s vocal New York trash talk has annoyed many visiting players who faced the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Indiana Pacers Legend Reggie Miller though was able to shut Spike up with one of the greatest clutch moments in NBA history. In 1994, the Pacers were in a physical back and forth playoff battle with the Knicks. With the series tied 2-2 and the Pacers playing on the road, Miller had to endure the incessant jibes from the famed director to the point where he would talk back.
Miller would score 25 points in the quarter and with every shot, would taunt Spike Lee. He would finally put Lee in his place with a phenomenal sequence where he scored 8 points in 9 seconds of game time and then stuck it to Spike Lee by gesturing his hands around his throat, signaling that Lee’s precious Knicks just choked.
The next day the headline on the New York Post regarding the loss read, “Thanks a Lot, Spike.”
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