Sun, May 11, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Head games start to intensify in NBA as pressure builds

AP , NEW YORK

Now that the NBA playoffs are getting serious, expect an epidemic of trash talk, players creeping into each other's heads and amusing themselves with contemptuous chatter.

Smack is routinely exchanged in the school yard between shirts and skins. Sensitive souls need not apply. Tongues wag because games are sometimes won with dialogue, not just drives and dunks.

There are some classic examples of street talk.

Charles Barkley liked to tweak the deeply religious AC Green by saying, "AC, if God is so good, how come he didn't give you a jump shot?"

Opponents like to tease Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, calling him "Irk because he's got no D."

Brainpower is a favorite trash topic.

Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson once issued a pre-Super Bowl shot at Terry Bradshaw, proclaiming, "He couldn't spell `cat' if you spotted him the `c' and the `a.'"

Bradshaw, however, ended up with four Super Bowl titles, two against Henderson's Cowboys.

Another generic bit of trash talk that has traversed several sports goes, "If your IQ was any lower, they'd have to water you."

Wichita State university sports psychologist Greg Buell wonders if woofin' is worth the effort.

"It's a 50-50 chance that you will get the desired effect," he said. "It's a risk. Why bother? Why use your effort for that?

"I understand that at that level you have to be a little in-your-face to separate you from the others.

"But you take a chance when you run your mouth. You'd better be doubly prepared because you could fire the other guy up. Is that your intention? You don't know if it will help or hurt."

In the NBA All-Star Game in February, Kobe Bryant stepped to the foul line for important business -- three free throws with the West trailing by two points and the game in the balance. He made the first and missed the second.

Then Michael Jordan sauntered over to offer some wisdom.

"He was talking trash," Bryant said.

Still, Bryant drained the shot and the West went on to win the game.

You would think Jordan would be above such behavior in an exhibition game. But it was evidence that he was just one of the guys, capable of running his mouth with the best of them.

Going for 40

Larry Bird, too.

Bird liked to stroll by opposing benches during warmups and casually remark, "I'm going for 40 tonight."

And he often practiced 3-pointers with his eyes closed.

Just for show.

In his final visit this season to Madison Square Garden, Jordan was lighting up the Knicks when journeyman Shandon Anderson began engaging the game's most celebrated player in animated conversation.

A flawed strategy.

Trash talk expert Reggie Miller once advised that Jordan was not a good target for smack.

"Jordan is the master of intimidation and manipulation with the looks and stares he gives you," Miller said.

"You let him alone. With Michael, the `Do Not Disturb' sign is out there and the maid better not come in."

Bother Jordan in his prime and instead of his normal 35 points, he just might get it in his shaved head to score 45 or 55.

Before Jordan could react, the other Knicks called Anderson off the case, suggesting that he might want to pursue some other approach -- like playing defense.

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