Maybe the best thing about sports? It’s totally acceptable to verbally bash your opponent. So whether you’re a serious recreational player or just trying to preserve your face in dodgeball, here are seven tips for raising your smack talk to professional levels of disrespect.
1. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Reasoning: Your jab may not bug your opponent the first time. Or the second. But around the 30th, it’ll get under his skin. (Especially if you’re punching him while you deliver it.)
Iconic example: Boxer Floyd Patterson refused to call Muhammad Ali by his new name, instead referring to him by his birth name, Cassius Clay. So in their 1965 title fight, Ali responded by relentlessly hammering Patterson—not hard enough to knock him out, but with enough force to hurt him deeply—while asking him over and over, “What’s my name?!” New name noted.
2. Make fun of his woman.
Reasoning: Sometimes a man cares for a woman very much. So mock her. Or say you’ve been with her.
Iconic example: In a 2013 regular-season game between the Celtics and the Knicks, Celtics star Kevin Garnett reportedly told Knicks star Carmelo Anthony that Anthony’s wife, La La, tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios. This ticked off Anthony so much that he waited for Garnett near the Celtics’ bus after the game, causing Anthony to get suspended. Also: the Celtics won by six.
3. Or just call him a woman.
Reasoning: Saying a man is a woman is immature and sexist. And in the heat of battle, it totally works.
Iconic example: When he was a Laker, Shaquille O’Neal referred to his California rivals the Sacramento Kings as the Sacramento Queens. He also once called Chris Bosh “the RuPaul of big men.” And in a homoerotic version of KG’s flavor comment to Melo, Shaq once asked Kobe Bryant “how my a** taste?” The world still eagerly awaits the Black Mamba’s description. Or actually, no, it doesn’t.
4. Insult his intelligence.
Reasoning: No one likes being told they’re dumb. Even if they dropped out of school at a young age to focus on chasing a ball.
Iconic example: When he was with Chelsea, famed soccer manager/jerk José Mourinho observed that then-Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo’s opinion shouldn’t be trusted because Ronaldo had a “difficult childhood” and “no education.” The comments stopped when Mourinho wound up coaching Ronaldo at Real Madrid. Now that Mourinho has returned to Chelsea, look for the class warfare to resume.
5. Proclaim victory beforehand.
Reasoning: Often the best way to irritate your opponents is to act like you’ve already won.
Iconic example: Larry Bird not only claimed the NBA’s first three three-point contests, he also set new standards of arrogance while doing so. Exhibit A: He marched into the locker room and announced, “Who’s finishing second?” Exhibit B: He refused to remove his warm-up shirt while competing (call it intimidation through wardrobe). Exhibit C: He once raised his finger and walked away before his winning shot had even gone in. In other words, Larry Legend was kind of a punk.
6. Get Zen.
Reasoning: To truly master the art of trash talk, you have to appear to be above it all while actually being as much of a jerk as anyone else.
Iconic example: Pretty much anything Phil Jackson has ever said during press conferences and interviews. For example, his passive-aggressive assertion that he really should have been a 13-time championship coach because those two years when Jordan was away didn’t really count. “Clearly, if the Bulls were whole,” said Jackson, “we would have won.” That, Houston Rockets fans, is one cold-blooded hypothetical.
7. Just talk crazy.
Reasoning: If nothing else works, you can freak people out by saying the ballsiest, most insane things that enter your mind.
Iconic example: Comedian Andy Kaufman’s greatest creation was a supremely smug wrestler who only battled women and relentlessly mocked Southerners. (He liked to tap his head and announce, “I’ve got the brains.”) We’ll never know what drove Andy to take such pleasure in making people hate him, but hey, he was damn good at it.