A month ago, ESPN The Magazine’s “Player X” segment — in which an anonymous professional athlete is allowed to take shots at his peers — featured some of the latest abuse directed towards Alex Rodriguez. For the May issue, Player X is an alleged hoops snitch who tackles the always-entertaining subject of trash talk. “If you ask me, they’re trying to take the ‘black’ out of the game,” argues Player X. “Besides Bird, all the great trash-talkers have been black. We were born talking trash. They want to silence us, but that’s like telling a bunny to stop jumping.” I’m not sure how to handle this assessment. Will Perdue wasn’t a great trash talker?
Trash-talk can go too far fast, though, so there is a code. Off-limit topics: moms, wives, girlfriends, kids. And health. Honestly, I never thought anyone would cross the line to crack on an opponent about a medical condition. But according to Charlie Villanueva, that’s what Kevin Garnett supposedly did earlier this season when he called the Pistons forward a “cancer patient.” Garnett later claimed otherwise, saying he had called Villanueva — who’s hairless because of a skin condition — a “cancerous” player.
I don’t know who’s telling the truth, but I don’t care. Garnett is a punk and a coward. I know, I know. Easy for me to say behind this column. Don’t worry, I’ll tell him to his face, too. And I’m not the only one who thinks that: If you’re not on his team, chances are you hate the guy. You can learn a lot about him by watching his eyes. If he’s talking to you — and he’s always talking — he avoids eye contact. My advice to other guys in the league: Stare him down, and he’ll retreat. From what I’ve seen, he’ll never mix it up with a player who’s bigger than he is. Personally, I think he’s scared to fight — like a playground bully who barks but doesn’t bite.