It’s an undeniable fact of life that one of the best things about professional sports is the trash talking. Whether it’s the NFL, the NBA, professional boxing or even professional tennis, we’re pretty sure watching professional athletes verbally abuse each other is 47% of the reason we tune into sports (with the remaining percentages dedicates to knockout punches, touchdown runs and buzzer beating three-point shots). With that in mind, we’ve gone and rounded up some of the nastiest trash talkers in the history of sports. Regardless of which sport any of the following individuals are beholden to, we couldn’t leave ’em off this list, which is a pretty good sign they’re the last people on Earth you’d want to run into were you to step onto an NFL field, inside a boxing ring, etc.
10. Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp has a long and storied history both on the NFL field and off of it; while his legacy has been clouded by several suspicious off the field incidents since his retirement in 2007. This former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Oakland Raider may have his fair share of controversy off the field, and that’s made people forget that when he was on the field, Warren Sapp was virtually unblockable during the prime years of his career. A dominant defensive tackle who was a key part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers championship run in 2001, Sapp recorded 96 sacks during his career and is best remembered as an incredible athlete whose speed and power were bested only by his motor mouth. A notorious trash talker, Sapp had some incredible bouts with the likes of Mike Sherman and Brett Favre, even being fined by the NFL on numerous occasions for his verbose and plentiful attempts to demean his opponents. A joker at heart, Sapp is remembered fondly by most of his opponents as more of a jester than a jerk, and he remains one of the best trash talkers in the history of the NFL.
9. Ronda Rousey
Surprisingly, there aren’t a whole lot of active athletes on this list. In the contemporary world of the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, etc., it’s more important than ever that athletes attempt to maintain a clean and politically correct profile, so as to maximize potential earnings via endorsements and appearances. That said, one active athlete who did make their way onto this list is “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, the current UFC Women’s bantamweight champion (135 lbs) and one of the most dominant athletes on the planet. Currently undefeated, Rousey has a history of talking ze trash against all of her opponents (and some people who aren’t stepping into the octagon with her at all, like boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, who surprisingly didn’t end up making this list); more famously, Rousey has a history of backing that trash talk up, with an astounding 12-0 record that features three knockouts and nine submissions. Talk away, lady. We won’t fight you about it.
8. Terrell Owens
Get yo’ popcorn ready folks, cause we’ve got the T.O. show ready and willing to entertain at any given moment! Terrell Owens, the former NFL receiver best known to casual fans as “T.O.,” spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals during his 15 year NFL career, and while there caused all sorts of ruckus with his dominant on-field play and his equally dominant trash talking game. Always the entertainer, T.O. became known for his controversial trash talking style, which involved verbally berating opposing cornerbacks for the majority of the game. While he could certainly back up his smack talk (he ranks in the top five in most cumulative receiving categories in the NFL, including second all-time in yardage and third all-time in touchdown receptions, behind only Randy Moss and Jerry Rice), T.O. was traded several times due to character concerns, proving that it really is about how you play the game.
7. Mike Tyson
We’re stepping back into the world of professional fighting for the number seven trash talker on our list, and boy is he a great one. Mike Tyson, affectionately known as “Iron Mike,” “Kid Dynamite” and “the baddest man on the planet” to his legions of fans, is arguably the greatest fighter in the history of boxing (we’ll get to his competition for that title later), and he had a mouth that was every bit as dangerous as his fists. A renowned trash talker with the ability to intimidate and demoralize his opponents like nobody else (Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face, right Mike?), Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world during his heyday, and he used his unparalleled knockout power to accumulate the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight championship belts. With a laundry list of controversies to match his celebrated career, Tyson remains a divisive figure among sporting fans. Whether you love him or hate him, it’s clear that his trash talk game was on point whenever he stepped into the ring.
6. John Randle
You don’t even need to hear John Randle, the former NFL defensive tackle who logged snaps as a member of the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks during his thirteen year NFL career, to know he was an intimidating force on the field. Just look at a picture of the man. He’s absolutely terrifying, and he developed an ability to talk trash that was just as scary as his infamous eye back makeup that he would wear during games. A defensive tackle so dominant he recorded 137 sacks in his career (a number most defensive ends can only dream of), Randle was a dominant on-the-field force who made a career of sacking quarterbacks and then mercilessly mocking them about not being able to escape him. Brett Favre, the long time Green Bay Packers quarterback who played Randle twice a year for the majority of his career, once said Randle was “unblockable on artificial turf;” high praise from one of the NFL’s toughest players.
5. Charles Barkley
We’ve reached the requisite NBA section of our list of trash talkers, and while we could’ve slotted an innumerable number of players here (guys like Reggie Miller made a living talking trash, and even the great Michael Jordan was renowned for his ability to demoralize his opponents on the court), we’ve up and chosen the great Charles Barkley as our representative smack talker from professional basketball. A mountain of a man who has parlayed his ability to talk into a prolific post-NBA career as an announcer and commentator, Barkley (who played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets during his 16 year career) was an extremely controversial figure during his time in the NBA (he still is, if we’re being honest), both for his notorious trash talking in the paint and his now-classic “I’m not a role model” argument that suggested athletes should not be idolized by youth, but rather should be looked at as professionals like anyone else.
4. John McEnroe
Whoa, game changer! What’s a professional tennis player doing running around amidst all these football and basketball players? Sure, we expect the trash talking from the fighters and the physical guys, but a tennis player? It’s a gentleman’s game! And what a gentleman John McEnroe, the former World No. 1 professional tennis player, was. An incredible athlete who is consistently ranked among the greatest of all time in his chosen sport, McEnroe won seven Grand Slam Men’s singles titles and nine Grand Slam Men’s doubles titles, rendering him one of the most accomplished and prolific men in the history of tennis. All that impressive business aside, what McEnroe is most often remembered for is his short temper and ability to talk a hefty amount of smack on the clay, and he still advocates for more candor and shouting in tennis matches, years after his retirement. What a guy, right?
3. Deion Sanders
We’re back to professional football now, and while we’ve had a good dose of big, bad men from the NFL who could talk some smack on this list, it’s time to give some credit to the little guys. We mean little physically, of course, because there’s no bigger personality in the history of the NFL than Deion Sanders, the former NFL cornerback who played for the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens in his 16 year career. A man so flashy he goes by the name of Primetime, Sanders earned a reputation as a fiery competitor who would frequently abuse opposing receivers both verbally and physically, shutting down his side of the field and building a legacy as one of the premier defensive players in the history of the sport.
2. Chad Johnson
Chad Johnson, who also went by the name of Chad Ochocinco during his time in the NFL, remains the sport’s preeminent trash talker. A man as renowned for his ridiculous touchdown celebrations as he was for his ability to smack talk his opponents (the Tiger Woods golf impression using an end zone pylon is our favorite, followed closely by his “Dear NFL, please don’t fine me” sign… trust us, look them up. They’re golden), Johnson was a receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals and briefly the New England Patriots during his career in the NFL. He was also the inventor of the “Burn List,” a note he kept pinned in his locker which calculated his statistics against every NFL defensive back he would play during a season (statistics he used to further taunt his opponents).
1. Muhammad Ali
Yeah… we’re just going to leave this here.