Top Ten Greatest Trash Talkers in Sports History

I’m sure those of us who played little league baseball remember hearing, “We want a batter, not a broken ladder.” Perhaps as you gripped your bat, you heard ‘easy out, easy out’ coming from the opposing team’s dugout. Heckling and trash talk is normal as anything; but throughout sport’s history, there have been some AMAZING trash talkers. Trash talkers whose burns have never allowed us to forget the words that they scorched into their opponent’s mind/minds. Some is simple banter while some is part of an elaborate mind game.

Here are my choices of my Top Ten Greatest Trash Talkers in Sports History.


Honorable Mention – Satchel Paige (Major League Baseball player)

“Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don’t move.”

I grew up loving the game of baseball and Hall of Famer Satchel Paige was always one of those polarizing figures that you heard so much about. When he broke into the majors at 42 years old, he had an already established and esteemed career in the Negro League. Paige could hurl words just as easily as he could hurl a baseball at home plate.


Honorable Mention – John McEnroe (Professional Tennis player)

“I’ve got more talent in my pinkie than Lendl has in his whole body.”

(referring to opponent Ivan Lendl)

So why is one of the most accomplished players in tennis history (a Seven Grand Slam Men’s singles titles, nine Grand Slam Men’s Doubles titles, and many more) on this list? All of his impressive winnings cannot hide the fact that McEnroe has a temper. With a very VERY short fuse. The former No 1 professional tennis player is and was one of the greatest in his sport BUT Lord that man talked so much smack. McEnroe was known to yell at officials, talk down to his opponents, and even advocates for more shouting between players in matches years after his retirement.


10. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Professional Boxer)

“I’ma beat you till you respect me. I’ma beat you and make you call me pretty. I’ma beat you like that.”

(Floyd Mayweather Jr vs Oscar De La Hoya, May 2007)

It pains me to mention his name due to my complete distaste for him, but not even I can take away his ability to box or his uncanny ability to not get hit. Despite his in-ring abilities being championship material in itself, his trash-talking was just as deadly. Just like in the ring, he was not afraid to hit below the belt. He wasn’t afraid to discuss sexual orientation, accusations of steroid use, or his opponent’s financial status.


9. Deion Sanders (National Football League player)

“Water covers two-thirds of the Earth. I cover the rest.”

When people from my generation think of Deion Sanders, you think of the freak athlete that he was. As one of only seven athletes since 1970 that bridged the gap and played professional baseball and football (along with Bo Jackson, he and Sanders appeared in both the MLB and NFL with Sanders holding the record as he appeared in 641 MLB games and 189 NFL games); Sanders was not only a Hall of Fame level NFL player, he was a Hall of Fame level trash talker. As with many of the athletes on our list, not only did Sanders humiliate his opponents verbally but he proved that he was bigger, stronger, and faster by being better than them on the field.


8. Ronda Rousey – (Professional Mixed Martial Artist)

“I wish I had a chance to do some more touristy things. After I beat Holly I will have some time.”

After being asked if she had seen much of Australia’s second-largest city.

Before becoming a dominant figure in WWE, Ronda Rousey was the “baddest woman on the planet”. Winning three matches in a record-shattering time of 64 COMBINED seconds. The bantamweight MMA fighter was making headlines as a dominant fighter but she and Holly Holmes made history as the first women to headline an MMA event. But it wasn’t just her take-down abilities that brought her provenance, Rousey’s trash talk was relentless. She was scrutinized on many occasions for her trash talk and found her opponents unphased and shockingly nonchalant about the trash talk. Much like her in ferocity in the ring, their refusal to trash talk did not stop ferocious mouth.


7. Terrell Owens – (National Football League player)

“Look momma, they got these cameras on me again.”

“Go get your popcorn ready.” Love him or hate him (I won’t disclose which category I fall into), no one can deny the amazing player that TO was during his 15-year career and the accolades that he racked up (second all-time in yardage, third in all-time touchdown receptions, just to name a few). What we can also not deny is the fact that the man talked smack the entire time. He talked a lot. And I do mean a lot. But it wasn’t just words. He even ran in a touchdown, pull out a sharpie from his shoe, signed the ball, and gave it to a fan. That’s showmanship! When TO was mic’ed up or when the cameras were around, it was constant entertainment for sure. And he wouldn’t let you forget that ‘he loved him some him’.


6. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Professional Wrestler)

“The Rock will take you down to Know Your Role Boulevard, which is on the corner of Jabroni Drive, and check you directly into the Smackdown Hotel!”

In professional wrestling, The Rock was and still is considered one of the greatest smack talkers of all time. With a touch of insanity and a dash of theatrics, The Rock had fans cheering for the bad guy. While in front of the crowd, The Rock insulted fans, interviewers, his opponents, the backstage staff, or anyone else that interacted with him. While Dwayne Johnson does not act this way outside of the wrestling ring (unless of course your Kevin Hart), that doesn’t stop us from naming The Rock on the list of greatest trash talkers.


5. Michael Jordan (Professional Basketball player)

“Was he big enough?”

Directed towards an angry Utah Jazz fan who berated Jordan and told him to ‘pick on someone his own size’ after posterized a 6’1″ John Stockton; Jordan slams on the 6’11” center Mel Turpin.

Michael Jordan has been a household name for almost 40 years, and this is due to more than just his shoes and a starring role in the Space Jam movie. Jordan was and is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. His competitiveness, ability to dominate the court in all aspects of the game, and his shooting prowess were matched with his ability to get in the head of his opponents. Jordan was a trash talker who could back up his words. One of my favorite Jordan moments happened during the 1997 NBA All-Star game in which Dikembe Mutombo decided that he wanted to get into the head of Jordan by saying that Jordan had never and could never dunk on him. Later that season, Jordan found his opportunity to make Mutombo regret his words. He dunked over him when the Bulls hosted the Hawks in Chicago. During a drive, Jordan drove to the baseline and slammed a basket over Mutombo. As Jordan walked away and smiled, he mockingly used Mutombo’s famous “not in my house” finger wag.  Jam movie .


4. Ric Flair (Professional Wrestler)

“I’m Ric Flair! The stylin’, profilin’, limosuine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ and dealin’ son of a gun.”

“Woooooooo!” Not only was Ric Flair a gifted wrestler (because “to be the man, you gotta beat the man”), but he was also and is one of the most amazing men with a mic. His trash talk led to some of the best promos and most memorable moments in wrestling history. In Flair’s captivation of the audience, he not only knew how to make himself look great but he also knew when to play the heel. Flair played the braggadocios playboy and perfected his ‘dirtiest player in the game’ persona to the nth degree. Ric himself said that he “was really good at being a bad guy; I like that role. Not being bad to people–just talking bad.” In a dominant display of confidence, Flair once called another one of the great mic men, Dusty Rhodes, ‘nothing happening son of a plumber’ and built upon his braggadocios character by saying that Rhodes couldn’t stand that Flair was born with a gold spoon in his mouth. Rhodes was being pushed as the babyface common man with Ric being the rich ‘man on top’. The wrestlers had the audience in the palm of their hands before the match even began. Their feud would be legendary. Flair’s ability to trash talk on the mic set a precedent for what it meant to make a wrestling promo. He will go down in history as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time and that is because “(d)iamonds are forever and so is Ric Flair.”


3. Mike Tyson (Professional Boxer)

“Lennox (Lewis) is a conqueror? No. I’m Alexander. He’s no Alexander. I’m the best ever. There’s never been anybody as ruthless. I’m Sonny Liston. I’m Jack Dempsey. There’s no one like me. I’m from their cloth. There’s no one that can match me. My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable. And I’m just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children.” 

In his day, Mike Tyson was pound for pound the greatest boxer. Throughout his career, Mike Tyson (to steal a phrase from trash talking tactician Warren Sapp who said that he ‘had a master’s and two doctorates in {trash-talking}’) had a doctorate in trash talking. His, sometimes outlandish, trash talking penetrated the ears of his opponents (and when they didn’t he just bit their ear off). Mike Tyson was the scariest man on the planet for more than just the words that came from the recognizable lisped voice; because in his hey day was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world (having accumulated the WBC, WBA, and the IBF heavyweight championship belts).


2. Connor McGreggor (Professional Mixed Martial Artist)

“I own this town. I own Rio de Janeiro. So for him to say that he is the king and I am the joker, if this was a different time, I would invade his favela on horseback and would kill anyone who wasn’t fit to work. But we’re in a new time, so I’ll whoop his a$$ (instead).”

From the 2015 Jose Aldo press conference in Aldo’s home country of Brazil.

Sometimes Conor McGregor makes us laugh. Other times Connor McGregor makes his opponents angry. Other times, Connor McGregor leaves us speechless in utter disbelief that he said what he said. The man has delivered truck load after truck load of trash talk and at times even cashed the metaphorical check that his mouth wrote. Utilizing the press conferences and post fight interviews as a time to get into the heads of his opponents, he once famously said “I’d just like to say from the bottom of my heart, I’d like to take this chance to apologize — to absolutely nobody! The double champ does what the f— he wants!” That’s Connor McGregor. Love him, hate him, or dodge the chair at he’s throwing at the window of your tour bus; he’s definitely one of the greatest.


  1. Muhammed Ali (Professional Boxer)

“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick.”

Before the boxer was called “The Greatest”, he was known as “The Louisville Lip” due to his gift of gab. The relentless trash talk that led up to infamous fights with boxers like George Foreman, Sonny Liston, and Joe Frazier allowed him to throw preverbal punches before he stepped foot into the ring. His quick quips and outlandish descriptions of his abilities have gone down as some of the most effective and brilliant trash talk in the history of sports. Not only is Muhammed Ali one of the most recognizable athletes in the history of sports, he is unquestionably the greatest trash talker of all time.


Images:

Featured Image – Michael Jordan as he appeared in an ESPN advertisement published by El Grafico magazine by Unknown author – El Gráfico, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86281370

Little League Baseball player image accredited to Wildernice/Original uploader was en:User:Barry Bonds at en.wikipedia – flickr/Transferred from en.wikipedia, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9432411

Cleveland Indians Pitcher Satchel Paige image by Bowman Gum – http://www.vintagecardtraders.org/virtual/49bowman/49bowman.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18047092

John McEnroe image by Anefo / Croes, R.C. – Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Anefo Item number 930-2093, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22414859

Mayweather Jr During official weigh-in for May 2, 2015 match against Manny Pacquiao image accredited to rcelis (Original version), crop by Prettyboy361 – https://pixabay.com/en/floyd-mayweather-jr-boxer-boxing-1212550/ archive copy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56528505

Deion Sanders at bat in 1993 image accredited to Jim Accordino – Deion Hitting, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16461205

Ronda Rousey at the WWE 2018 Hall of Fame ceremony image attributed to unknown – 2018-04-06_18-45-28_ILCE-6500_DSC09942, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68477025

Terrell Owens on the Sideline image accredited to Zoroloco at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Premeditated Chaos using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18138560

The Rock image accredited to Megan Elice Meadows – IMG_3248, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47623398

Ric Flair at WrestleMania XXIV by The Badder in the World – originally posted to Flickr as Ric Flair, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5224026

Mike Tyson magazine cover by Unknown author – El Gráfico, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86245188

Connor McGregor at the UFC 189 Tour image by Andrius Petrucenia – UFC 189 World Tour Aldo vs. McGregor London 2015, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42073889

Ali vs Frazier promotional photo accredited to El Gráfico – http://www.elgrafico.com.ar/thumbs.php?id=16337&w=1500&h=2000, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71137621

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