Shaq’s new tell-all, Shaq Uncut: My Story, has been pretty cavalier about calling out his colleagues. Shaq accuses Kobe of tearing the Lakers apart, and then calls out LeBron James for not listening to coach Mike Brown.
Basketball has always been a sport where players are much more visible than in other sports. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: there’s a facelessness in hockey and football that pro basketball avoids. The NBA narrows the focus to a star system that allows the kind of amazing smear quotes and trash talk that you rarely get in other leagues.
Some of the trash-talk gets pretty crazy. .
4. Double Feature: Kevin Garnett Calls Charlie Villanueva a Cancer Patient, Reggie Evans Calls Kevin Garnett A Little Chihuahua
Enter Reggie Evans. Evans is a dream in interviews, always candid, sharply observant and slightly crazy. It didn’t take long (about a week) for him to lay down his opinion.:”I’d love to see Charlie and KG in the ring. I’d pick Charlie. I’ve seen KG get his ass whupped. … He’s always barking, and when it’s time to get physical, he’s always been a little chihuahua.”
Jesus, guys, someone needed to get a teacher involved.
3. The 1994 Pacers-Knicks Rivalry — Headbutting Reggie Miller
A trash-talking list would be incomplete without a mention of the Knicks-Pacers rivalry during the mid-90s. The Spike Lee-John Starks-Reggie Miller love triangle is one of those great trash talking trifectas that rarely appear. For example, at the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Lee heckled Miller pretty hard, which was all well and good, until Miller made a huge comeback in the fourth quarter, burying 25 points, staring at Lee after each basket.
It’s well known that Miller exulted in being a villain on court, and his “Choke Artists!” moment almost made this list. In 1995, Miller transformed into a scorching hurricane, slamming in 8 points in 11 seconds and turning around a 105-99 lead for the Knicks into a winning game for the Pacers. Miller then taunted Knicks superfan Lee, then the Knicks audience and then, on national television, told New York City that the Pacers were going to sweep the Knicks. Afterwards, he charged into the locker rooms, screaming, “Choke artists! Choke artists!”
But the climax of the Lee-Starks-Miller romance culminated when Starks headbutted Miller in the mouth during game 3 of the playoff games, netting Starks an immediate ejection from the game, and cementing the Miller/Starks affair as one of the most intense rivalries in NBA history.
2. Who Is The Real Superman?
Let’s ignore Shaq’s regrettable, “Kobe, how does my ass taste?” thing and move straight to something dumber: the Superman dilemma.
Shaq and Dwight Howard’s feud has been a staple of NBA media for a while. Shaq is a dynamic trash-talker, unpredictable, whether he’s rapping about Kobe, or trashing LeBron James in a tell-all, or calling out on Howard appropriating the mantle of Superman, culminating in a post-retirement interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune last September, in which Shaq said, “But my thing is if you want to call yourself me (Superman), then you’ve got big shoes to fill… He won a dunk contest with a cape. If you want to be called Superman because of that, it’s fine with me. I’m Superman for other reasons.I don’t envy him; he’s a great young player. But I’ve never seen him dog another center out.”
The rivalry began in the 2009-2010 season, when Shaq angrily responded to comparisons between Howard and him, saying, “You tell me who the real Superman is. Don’t compare me to nobody. I’d rather not be mentioned. I’m offended.”
Sure, it might seem like a nickname is small beans in the grand scheme of the NBA, but Shaq’s tell-all book reveals that some wounds can cut deep, even for the Man of Steel: “I don’t like people who lack originality. The whole Superman thing doesn’t work for me. … It’s kind of weird how he’s handled his career. He wants to be Superman. “
1. Larry Bird Is Hilarious
You could fill this list up with Larry Bird stories. He’s known for some of the greatest trash-talk on the court. But the best story is about Bird leveling his brand of comedy right at Dennis Rodman.
I’ll let Rodman tell it: “‘I would be all over him, trying to deny him the ball, and all Larry was doing was yelling at his teammates, I’m open! Hurry up before they notice nobody is guarding me!’ Then he would stick an elbow in my jaw and stick the jumper in my face. Then he would start in on my coach, ‘Coach you better get this guy out and send in somebody who’s going to D me up, because it’s too easy when I’m wide open like this.'”
Ice cold, Larry. Damn.