Trash-talking the Knicks shouldn’t win anybody a place on this list because it’s too easy. But when Miller did it in the 1990s, it was funny because he repeatedly screamed ‘choke artists, choke artists.’ He wasn’t lying and he managed to get under their skin with his words. Miller had a long record of verbally abusing his opponents and turned it into an art form.
A young Miller even had the confidence to go after one of the greatest ever. He said, “You’re Michael Jordan, the guy who walks on water?” in one of the most disparaging lines ever. Miller spent his entire career with the Pacers and made five All-Star appearances. He was also one of the best shooters in history as well as one of the top trash-talkers (via NBC Sports).
The best trash-talkers back up their words on the court and that’s exactly what Jordan did. The Chicago icon destroyed the Cavs’ Craig Ehlo in one ruthless performance as he humiliated him on the hardwood. But Jordan was also occasionally cruel in his brilliance as Muggsy Bogues will attest (via Clutchpoints).
Bogues was the shortest NBA player and this was a lot to deal with because he was an easy target for trash-talkers. Jordan had no problem saying, “Shoot the ball, midget” when he faced him in 1996. He didn’t spare his teammates either as he sneered at Rip Hamilton when he wanted to join the Jordan shoe brand.
There was a time when people called Embiid a bully because he went too far with his trash talk. Some analysts believed that he chased low-hanging fruit instead of picking on his rivals. He famously told Karl-Anthony Towns that he owned him and relentlessly castigated the Minnesota star.
Embiid is a huge competitor and refuses to allow anybody to psychologically dominate him. Remember, this man took the long road to the NBA from Cameroon. He also sparred with Kevin Durant and rap artist Drake at various points in his career. There’s no stopping in Embiid when someone lights a fire underneath him (via Philly Mag).
Tim Hardaway praised Booker in 2023 because he took on the mantle of team trash-talker. Booker says that he doesn’t start to trash-talk but he finishes it. These days he has a massive rivalry with Dallas MVP contender Luka Doncic. It’s safe to say that Booker isn’t afraid to say what he thinks.
Klay Thompson also experienced Booker’s trash-talk attempts. Booker doesn’t lack confidence, even if some fans find him a little bit cringe-worthy. But the NBA needs characters and his troll-job attempts make the league a more interesting place. He’s not in the same class as greats like Larry Bird but at least he isn’t boring (via Yardbreaker).
Beverley lives on the edge of every game he plays. The point guard is one of the most intense athletes in the sport and one of the biggest trash-talkers. It feels like he’s had run-ins with all of the big names in the league. Steph Curry, Paul George, and Kahwi Leonard are just a few of the stars who experienced his wrath.
Some people think he’s compensating for his limited abilities. But the reality is that great teams always have players like Draymond Green, Dennis Rodman, and Beverley. He won’t win any neutral fans but his franchise loves him and sees his value. Sometimes it makes him a liability but it’s often useful (via NBC Sports).
The “Black Mamba” was among the most brilliant trash-talkers the NBA has ever seen. He dedicated himself to the cause and was cold in his delivery. Bryant famously went to the effort of learning French because he wanted to troll Tony Parker. He was also ruthless toward his teammates like Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm.
Modern icons like Kevin Durant and James Harden felt Bryant’s ire. He once said, “maybe one day they’ll sit at my lunch table.” Even LeBron James didn’t escape as Bryant made a scathing comment about the decision. He told him to enjoy his MVP win in whatever city because the Lakers were winning championships (via Complex).
Barkley was one of the most popular players of his era because of his competitive style and wide grin. He never won a ring with the Suns but he was one of their all-time greats. Meanwhile, Barkley had a big mouth and went after everybody with great trash-talk. Reputations didn’t intimidate him because he went after everybody.
Barkley famously shredded the Bulls and Michael Jordan in 1993. He said. “We better not be doing the Bulls this year. Man, they suck! Bunch of high school kids with $70 million contracts. Damn! I hate my mother for having me too soon.” In the end, the Bulls had the last laugh but this was a brilliant line (via Sportskeeda).
Butler is one of the grittiest athletes of the modern era and has a tremendous work ethic. The Miami star is also a gifted trash-talker as Karl-Anthony Town discovered. Butler infamously told Towns that he is as “soft as baby s***.” He also said, “I already punked you once” (via USA Today Sports).
The Heat player also demolished Devin Booker in one exchange. However, he failed to rattle LeBron James who refused to engage with him. James said his gameplay did the talking and that he didn’t need to say anything else. Nonetheless, Butler is a great trash-talker and it’s entertaining for fans to hear him in action.
Kevin Garnett was one of the greatest trash-talkers in NBA history. But even he believes that ‘The Dream’ is another contender for the best in the business. There’s been a couple of occasions where Garnett praised Olajuwon for his trash-talking abilities. He said that he was a nightmare on the court because of his confidence.
According to Garnett, ‘The Dream told his rivals what he was going to do. “Olajuwon would take his mouthpiece out and say, ‘I’m here to hit him with lateral movement!” Garnett explained (via Basketball Network). “He can’t do anything!’ How do I even respond to that? I have nothing for that.”
Payton was arguably Seattle’s greatest-ever player and also had one of the biggest mouths. But he earned the right to say what he wanted because he was on another level. There weren’t many athletes who had the confidence to sneer at Shaquille O’Neal. But Payton had no qualms about shutting the Lakers’ star down.
He once infamously told Jamie Feick that he wouldn’t be in the league the following year. This was true but it was a harsh thing to say. Payton also admitted that he if knew anything about anybody’s family members he went after them without hesitation. This made him one of the sport’s most notorious trash-talkers (via USA Today Sports).
There’s a good reason why many rival fans hated Wallace. The four-time All-Star was one of the most vocal trash-talkers that the NBA has ever seen. Wallace spent the bulk of his career with the Trail Blazers but won a ring in Detroit. If there was an NBA award for trash talking, Wallace would have been an annual contender.
He trolled opponents on the court and roared at rivals on the bench. Meanwhile, he antagonized referees and officials when things didn’t go his way. One game against the Memphis Grizzlies saw him at his best when he destroyed Rudy Gay. Wallace didn’t care who he insulted but he gave his team confidence (via SBNation).
Early Garnett fans wouldn’t have expected him to become one of the league’s biggest trash-talkers. But that’s precisely what happened as he settled into his NBA career. The former Boston star was responsible for one of the most disgusting trash talk lines of all time. He infamously told Carmelo Anthony that his wife Lala tasted “like honey-nut Cheerios.”
This was Garnett’s standout moment but he had many more. He famously went back and forth with Charles Barkley and trolled the Suns’ icon about his lack of rings. The best trash talkers also back their words up on the court. This 15-time All-Star was an NBA champion and can say whatever he wants (via The Ringer).
Michael Jordan believes Bird was the most savage trash-talker he ever faced. The Celtics star didn’t hold back with some legendary lines. During one three-point contest, he asked his rivals who was playing for second. Then he backed his words up by winning the shooting title. Bird’s trash talk ignited fights and brawls because he infuriated everybody.
The Celtics’ hero didn’t care who he spoke to because everybody felt the heat. One iconic display against the Hawks tells everything we need to know because Bird dropped 60 points. He kept repeating, ‘Who wants it next’ as he demolished Atlanta. Bird talked the talk and he also walked the walk (via Viral Hoops).