Trash Talking: A Lost Art

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to trash talk or hit people with one liners. I love to trash talk while playing video games, backyard games like cornhole or washers, anytime I can. The trash talking is just a result of my competitive nature. There's a certain satisfaction that comes with getting one over on your opponent, especially when you can see that what you are saying is getting them off of their game a bit. When you are doing it on a small scale like over a cornhole game it is mostly all for fun, but when you can do it well at the professional level, well now it's a critical competitive advantage. The reason I bring this up is because I stumbled across a video of Larry Bird's greatest trash talking moments that someone had put together. Great stories I suggest you give it a watch.

Naturally as it normally happens on Youtube I went down a bit of a rabbit hole. I'm just going to share one more here and that's Kevin Garnett's version because it was my other favorite besides Bird's.

Two legends in terms of both their play and their talking abilities. Bird telling his opponents where he's going to hit the game winner from and they still can't do anything to stop it is legendary. I can't imagine how much that messes with your head as a defender. The airport hot dog story is hilarious. How are you supposed to react when Larry Bird comes out on the floor and says "sorry don't take this beating personally, I've just been eating hot dogs all day". The story Chris Bosh tells about KG calling him a mama's boy and completely taking him out of the game mentally is awesome. That's exactly what KG wants, he wants you thinking about comebacks rather than focusing on what you're supposed to be doing in the game. The Matt Bonner story is hilarious and so is the story of Tim Duncan actually getting KG to shutup by hitting him with short phrases. Phrases are sometimes the purest form of trash talk because they frustrate the hell out of your opponent. KG wants you to react to his talk with something elaborate, because then he knows he has you thinking. When you hit him with "nice try" or "almost" he has nothing to work off of. Players have shared similar stories about Kawhi Leonard today. Kawhi is a notoriously quite guy, but he does say little phrases on the court. If he makes a shot he says "bucket", if he blocks you you get hit with a "nope", and every rebound is "board man gets paid". These may not seem like much, but imagine how pissed off you get hearing "bucket" every time he scores on you. It's nothing elaborate, but it wears on you just the same.

The NHL is notorious for it's trash talkers as I'm sure you can imagine. Talking actually has consequences in the NHL too, because if you say something a guy doesn't like he can actually beat you up. I believe the modern sports world has gone soft. Guys are not talking trash like you used to, at least you don't hear about it as much anymore. I think this is due to the modern age of technology and social media. All the players are connected to each other now and they're seemingly all friends. It's not like the 80s and 90s anymore where guys legitimately hated each other. Bird is the Celtics hated Magic and the Lakers. The Bad Boy Pistons hated everybody. Bird and Magic never even talked to each other until the Dream Team days. Isiah Thomas still has contempt for Michael and Magic. This is why the NBA peaked in ratings and really as a league in the 90s. There was no lovey dovey shit going on between the league's stars. Not like today's stars.

Imagine Bird, Magic, and Jordan on a banana boat together. Everyone is soft these days. Worried about saying something that might hurt or offend the other player. It's sad when one of the only prominent trash talker I can think of today is Draymond Green. A guy who was never better than the 3rd best player on his own team. When guys like KG, Paul Pierce, and Kobe retired, a part of the league was lost. There's a great story about Kobe and Jordan when they played each other. Kobe and the Lakers were in Washington playing Jordan and the Wizards. Kobe had a bad game and he was wearing Jordan's. Michael goes up to him and says "you can wear my shoes, but you can never fill them". An absolutely savage line. They say this pissed Kobe off so much he didn't talk for 2 weeks. He didn't talk to his teammates, coaches, anyone. 2 weeks later the Wizards were in LA to play the Lakers and Kobe comes out and puts up 40 in the 1st half alone. Ending the game with about 55 points. There's a video of Michael sitting on the bench near the end of the game just smiling and laughing, because he knows exactly what just happened. Players today just aren't built like that anymore, and it's sad to see.

What we need today is a rise of the new era of trash talkers. Not just in the NBA, but in all the sports leagues. I think Connor McGregor gave us a great starting point. Connor is probably my favorite trash talker of all time.

Connor's creativity and delivery are second to none. The greatest thing about his talk was the effect it had on his opponents. Jose Aldo and Dustin Poirier (the first fight) lost those fights against Connor before they even stepped into the octagon. He had beaten them so badly mentally before the fights that they just couldn't perform. It's also in the player or fighters best interest to perfect their talking abilities. Not only because of the mental edge you gain, but because of the notoriety that comes along with it. Connor wasn't the biggest superstar in UFC history because he was the best fighter in UFC history. He was an above average fighter at best because he had good hands. He could be easily beaten as we've seen in the Khabib, Diaz, and Poirier (the second fight) fights. He was the biggest superstar in the sports history because of the persona he was able to create thanks to his talking. Not only were his fights must watch, his pre-fight press conference were too. Any interviews he did were as well. Players today should learn from the likes of Connor, Bird, Jordan, and Garnett. Not only to gain a competitive advantage, but to build their brands off of the playing grounds as well.