Steve Kerr & Kevin Mchale recall “trash talking” in the NBA


Steve Kerr

(NYPOST) – One time, Steve Kerr was told, former NBA skyscraper Manute Bol blocked a shot taken by fellow big man Benoit Benjamin. The 7-foot-7 Bol, a native of the Sudan, then rubbed it in to Benjamin.

“Get that [garbage] out of here, Big Body-Little Head,” Bol said.

“I guess Benoit had a small head for a seven-footer,” Kerr says.

Kerr played 15 years in the NBA, winning 5 NBA titles – 3 with Chicago Bulls (96-97-98) and two with San Antonio Spurs (99, 03).

During his play days, Kerr was considered one of the best three point shooters in the NBA. He led the league in 3-point shooting percentage.

He played in 910 NBA games (30 started), averaging 6.0 ppg in 17.8 minutes per game.

There’s funny trash talk like this. There’s trash talk like what some athletes say is most common —trying to pump themselves up. Then there’s the kind of stuff Kevin Garnett allegedly said to Carmelo Anthony this past week — according to Black Sports Online, Garnett told Anthony that wife La La “tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios.”

So if Garnett did say that, did he go too far? Anthony and La La are husband and wife. But if they weren’t, ESPN analyst and former Cowboy Darren Woodson says that would be different.

“Girlfriend, she’s not married. She’s legally not bound to you,” he says. “She’s fair game.”

Someone’s wife or mother, Woodson says, is not. Ditto someone’s kids.

“Kids, oh god,” Woodson says. “That is grounds for termination.”

Amar’e Stoudemire’s standards are a bit more broad.

“As long as it doesn’t get personal, then everything’s OK,” he says. “When it becomes a personal matter, then that’s when things become a little extra heated.”

Most trash talk isn’t like that. It doesn’t poke at family backgrounds or personal issues.

“In my experience, it was rarely personal. Usually guys are talking just to get themselves pumped up,” Kerr says.

“Michael Jordan was the master. And then it was usually something along the ‘you can’t guard me’ theme. It wasn’t a case of guys being malicious. It was more just they were trying to get themselves going.”

Kevin Mchale

Kevin Mchale

“Trash talking was along the lines of [bragging about how you were playing], but I never really remember guys talking about family members or talking about a person’s significant other,” ESPN analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Damien Woody says.

“I think it’s just a level of respect,” he says. “Guys are competitors on the field and all those type of things, but guys are not going to cross that line.”

But “crossing the line” is different for every player, because every individual has a different idea of where that line is. Rockets coach and former Celtics star Kevin McHale says he doesn’t think there is a line.

“How can you go too far? You’re trying to beat the other team. What’s too far?” McHale says. “I can tell you what, your definition of too far and my definition of too far would be completely different. I don’t know what too far is.”

Sometimes trash talk has trends. Trash talking also had different tendencies based on the player.

Charles Barkley was funny. Kerr recalls him jabbering with fans, ultimately cracking up the fans, himself and his opponent.

Gary Payton was, by most accounts, relentless.

“It just seemed to never stop,” ESPN NBA analyst and former player Jon Barry says.

Reggie White was apologetic.

“Reggie White was the most unique. He was so kind but such a monster as a player,” Dilfer says. “He’d be destroying you. [And then he would say], ‘Brother Trent, you all right? I almost feel bad doing it to you but I’m coming back.’?”

Through the years, trash talking has evolved. Kerr thinks the friendlier relationships between players now has led to less-nasty chatter, with Kerr calling it “more kind of a collegial trash talking now.”

“Guys just seem to know each other a lot better now,” he says. “Maybe that cuts down on the maliciousness of the trash talk.”

McHale is well aware. He drafted Garnett in Minnesota in 1995.

“So some guy said, ‘I’m gonna kick your rear end’ or ‘what you got’ or ‘you can’t guard me,’ all of a sudden now in our politically correct world that’s bad? If you heard half the stuff we used to say, I chuckle at that,” McHale says. “So he talked some smack. Big deal, everybody talks smack.”

Kevin Mchale played for the Boston Celtics for 12 years, never averaging below 10 ppg in a season.

He was named to the NBA’s All-Star team 7 times, and he also won the NBA championship with the Celtics four times (1981, 1984, 1986).

McHale played in 971 NBA games (400 started), averaging 17.9 ppg and 7.3 rpg in 31 minutes per game.


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