Kevin Garnett has been a staple in the National Basketball Association for his antics on the court as much as his basketball ability. To fans and experts alike, he is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer without having to think twice as far as the game is concerned. However with Garnett, the game consists of much more than tossing a leather ball into a metal ring and disrupting his opponent’s attempts to do the same. No, Garnett has crafted a reputation for being the league’s most notorious trash-talker. He is the trash-talker of this generation, but at times he pushes things horrifically past the point of no return. To the point of making a joke about killer diseases, to the point of mocking your deceased family member or calling your wife a delicious breakfast cereal. He’s certainly not the first player to use his mouth to get under his opposition’s skin throughout a contest, and will not be the last. Though these infrequent, possibly falsified moments in which Garnett breaks all unwritten laws of smack talk brings to light an undiscussed factor of NBA basketball that could threaten the game and the league.
No player in the past decade has made more of a name for himself by jawing at competition non-stop than Kevin, simply because no one does it better. Garnett’s ability to talk his way into an opponent’s head and mix it up with a wooden spoon is in all reality a terrific strategy, which makes the most calm players lose their composure. Nobody in recent history has mastered this art as perfectly as Garnett, and the proof is in the pudding.
In that last clip, he managed to get Jose Calderon, a point guard known for his calm demeanor and self-control (currently 3rd in assist/turnover ratio among qualified point guards) to fire back at him. Kind of makes you wonder what Garnett said to (screamed at) Calderon, and to all of the other players he’s drove up the wall in his NBA career. Disappointing that we’ll never know for sure, and this is where a bigger issue at hand lies.
The ethics of trash-talking has been exhaustively debated since the dawn of its use.
On one hand, players should be completely focused on the game at hand, and playing it at their finest. Trash-talking is hardly any different than boasting or show-boating in the sense that you’re either bragging or trying to make your opposition feel worse, only doing so verbally. It’s a danger to sportsmanship and generates ego-maniacs out of players that don’t have the talent or skill to show for their gabbing. It also could cause scuffles and even fights, adding further distractions to our beautiful game.
On the other hand, it’s brutally effective. It’s almost a game within a game, where if you can obtain the edge in a verbal battle of will and shrewdness you can throw off your opponent’s game simply by chatting with him every other trip down the court. With emotions flaring during any sporting event from pick-up games at the park, to backyard football games to professional basketball, chatter between players is bound to occur, and in what alternate universe is the chatter going to consist of how lovely the weather is outside and what movies each player has enjoyed as of late? Plus, trash-talking only increases motivation, leading to much more competitive bouts, which are always entertaining.
This argument can go on forever, with everybody’s morals and opinions on how sports should be played so unique. Yet the NBA has never addressed trash-talking as a hindrance to the game, which means it can be assumed that the league either thinks it’s a welcome part of the game, or it’s not a big enough problem to have to deal with. So where is the line drawn as to what is trash-talking and what is disrespectful? Could it be drawn at the point where a player calls another player’s wife a whore? If so, how would this line be enforced? The reason I’m bringing this up now is because Kevin Garnett has once again reportedly crossed all fathomable boundaries concerning what can and can’t be said when trash-talking. Notice I said reportedly, because there’s no tangible proof that could expose the exact things that Garnett or any trash-talker in the league could have said while playing. Though there are quite a few signs that point to these reports being credible. This is where the NBA might need to begin stepping in.
Whatever your stance on the trash-talking debate is, chances are you won’t find any of the following incidents, all courtesy of Kevin Garnett, acceptable.
On May 9th, 1999, which was Mother’s Day, the Minnesota Timberwolves squared off against the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. On a trip to the free-throw line, Tim Duncan of the Spurs was a victim of possibly the worst case of trash-talking in the history of sports. Kevin Garnett reportedly said to him, “Happy Mother’s Day, motherf*cker.” If you don’t already know, Tim Duncan’s mother passed away from breast cancer the day before Duncan’s 14th birthday. This was undoubtedly the most sick, twisted and cruel thing you could possibly say to another man, and it bulldozes any imaginable line separating smack-talk and pure disrespect.
Early in the 2010-2011 NBA season, following a Celtics-Pistons contest, forward Charlie Villanueva took his voice to Twitter to speak out against Garnett’s habits. One of his tweets said, “KG called me a cancer patient, I’m pissed because, u know how many people died from cancer, and he’s tossing it like it’s a joke.” Villanueva suffers from Alopecia, a disease which results in hair loss and baldness. A popular treatment for cancer is chemotherapy, which also results in the loss of patients’ hair. Later, Garnett went into damage control mode and said that “I am aware there was a major miscommunication regarding something I said on the court last night, my comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact, ‘You are cancerous to your team and our league.’”
And finally, January 7th, 2013. The Knicks and Celtics battle in Madison Square Garden, and following the game Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks not only attempts to chase down Garnett as both teams disperse into their separate locker rooms, but also waits for him by the Celtics team bus. (http://youtu.be/bvr6q97RTSQ) The NBA has recently announced that Anthony would be suspended for a single game, punishment for going after Kevin post-game. What on Earth would aggravate Anthony enough to want to seek out Garnett way after the contest ended?
It couldn’t possibly be the physicality the two both played against eachother with. Melo’s done it all season and done it with Garnett plenty of times, yet has never gone to such lengths to confront a player before. Following this debacle, a report was released that one of the things Garnett said to Melo during their fourth quarter conversations on this night was that his wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios. Who wouldn’t go after someone who hinted that he’s “tasted” your woman? Not exactly sure what that could mean, but you can use your imagination. For what it’s worth, you can search up “Honey Nut Cheerios” on Urban Dictionary and base your thought process on that. When Carmelo addressed the media on this incident, he was quoted saying “It’s certain things that you just don’t say to men.” That being said, is it hard to be on Garnett’s side at this point? He backtracks again and releases this statement on his official Facebook page, “I would never say anything about someone’s family! I have way to much respect for that! What I said was all basketball related and nothing else!”
Here’s the big picture. The way my brain is screwed in, I’d go berserk if a player dared to talk about my family, blood or not. It’s not justifiable in any way, shape or form, and it’s impossible to get any sort of punishment inflicted for such an indisputable case of asshole syndrome with how the league hasn’t even glanced at trash-talking. If there was concrete evidence, wouldn’t the NBA take action? Should they? Yes. By all means, yes. Would it be a smart proposal to install microphones in a convenient location where the league can monitor all that’s being said on the court? I think that’s a question that needs to be asked by someone in the league offices.
These things just cannot be allowed to be said, and had they been said by any player in front of a microphone or on Twitter, David Stern would dish out a fine without having to think twice. There are problems with this, especially relative to determining where the line is drawn between trash-talking and insulting or attacking another player. One possible solution would be to fine or suspend players if it’s a blatantly crude exchange, similar to the NBA’s policy on fining players who flop. This situation could get even more out of hand if the NBA was considering banning the use of profanities on the court, because as crazy as it sounds it would likely be an option the league would explore.
This is an extreme circumstance yes, and the general idea of enforcing what a player can or cannot say while playing the game is as well. Though if there was even the slightest worry that what Garnett may or may not have said to Tim Duncan, Charlie Villanueva and Carmelo Anthony were true, it would be humane or at the very least logical to try and stop it. It’s very possible that these awful acts of total disregard towards a person’s personal life or world-changing disease only come from Garnett, only in sporadic moments. In the case that these types of events happen every so often, no one could argue that the league should be fine with players calling eachother’s wives whores.
In the grand scheme of things, I would bet this is just an irritated Knicks fan over-reacting to a sketchy report. But there should be some provisions made to be sure it’s no more than that.