It’s hard to pinpoint the single greatest trash-talking in NBA history.
First off, there are probably many we haven’t heard about, but some of the ones that come to mind are the Reggie Miller vs. Spike Lee battles, Larry Bird asking who’s going to win second before the Three-Point Contest, or any number of stories about Michael Jordan.
A favorite from MJ is the time against the Utah Jazz when he dunked on John Stockton as a young player. A Utah fan taunted him saying something to the effect of, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?”
Soon after, Jordan dunked on 7-footer Mel Turpin, turned to the fan and said, “Is he big enough?”
But maybe the most memorable moment of trash talk came in a different scenario between the Bulls and the Jazz and involved Jordan’s most famous teammate and Utah’s most famous player in team history.
On June 1, 1997 – 20 years ago today – was the time Scottie Pippen reminded Karl Malone that “The Mailman don’t deliver on Sundays.”
Despite offering up that Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant might be one of the greatest nicknames in NBA history (??), Aaron Dodson of ESPN’s The Undefeated has a nice look back on the Pippen legend.
Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals was tied 82-82 with 9.2 seconds left after Jordan split a pair of free throws. Dennis Rodman fouled Malone, sending “The Mailman” to the free-throw line – remember this is the year Malone beat out Jordan for the MVP award.
This is when Pippen pounced.
“I just kind of whispered in his ear that the Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sunday,” Pippen recalled of the moment to reporters after the game.
The United Center crowd in Chicago was in a frenzy as Malone missed both free throws and the Bulls grabbed the rebound with 7.5 seconds left.
Predictably, Jordan rose up over Bryon Russell on the ensuing possession and knocked down the game-winner. The Bulls would go on to win the series and the title in Game 6 after Jordan found Steve Kerr for an open shot to clinch that championship.
The shot over Russell also gave fans a little taste of what was to come in the 1998 NBA Finals, when he knocked down the series winner after pushing off Russell in Game 6 to clinch that title, which was Jordan and Pippen’s sixth and final one together as teammates.
Sure, we will always remember Jordan as the one who came up big in many of these moments.
But he was always helped with some nice assists from Pippen.