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Trash Talk with Kevin Hart
Research Document Vol. 4:
(We Miss) THE NBA
We started working on the fourth volume of ‘Research Document’ well over a year ago. Throughout that period of time, as friends of the brand have filtered in and out of our world, we’ve taken a moment to gain a better understanding of something we love - the NBA - through their lens.
The project has allowed us to compile a number of pieces based on curiosities we have around the league’s culture. You’ll find tidbits, stories, and elements of the game that aren’t typically covered in the mainstream media and that, tuning in as a casual fan, you wouldn’t see on TV. That’s why Research Document Vol. 4 is so interesting, and, with the NBA’s unfortunate suspension, so timely. Typically, this series is published in print. But, given the current state of play, we’ve decided to release digital stories that, when the time is right, will build to a print compilation. We hope they bring you a little joy.
There’s many things we miss about the NBA, and high on the list is trash talk. With that said, we’re happy to share an interview with one of the foremost experts on the subject. Aaron and I talked to Kev around this time last year. When I’d sat next to him at Madison Square Garden a year prior, the lightbulb immediately went off. We took two shots of tequila together, Kevin began to run his mouth, and I proceeded to watch him literally affect the game. At one point, while Tristan was at the free throw line, LeBron had to come over, jersey over his face, and tell Kev to “Shut the Fuck up.” We died laughing.
John Elliott: You’re a top level shit talker. [This piece] is part historical questions on who you respect in their craft as a shit talker...and then some of your personal experiences like sitting court-side and where you actually had been able to affect an NBA game. The way that I thought about this was when we sat court-side with you at Madison Square Garden.
Kevin Hart: You saw me talk a lot of shit.
John: I saw you literally giving it to Tristan Thompson about his shorts. And in fact I think it may have affected him at the free throw line to the point where LeBron took it out at the hash mark out of bounds and told you to shut the fuck up. “Shut the fuck up Kev!”
Kevin: “Shut the fuck up, Kev. Stop playin. You play too much Kev, stop playin” I told Melo his headband was too big, all that.
John: In your opinion who are some of the greatest trash talkers of all time?
Kevin: Of all time? Shannon Sharpe is probably one of the best. People just don't know it.
John: What makes him great?
Kevin: Shannon Sharpe is a country guy. Those country guys, those trash talkings come with rhymes and riddles. It’s tough to talk trash to the guy that’s got a riddle behind the trash talk. “This ain’t what you want, it’s what you need.” What did he say? ”I’m gonna be in the end zone more than a pig on the back of a….” What, what did he say?
He's tough. He's very tough. Who else can I say? You know, Spike Lee in his prime. Spike Lee in his prime was amazing. The reason why I say in his prime, Spike in his prime would get up gesture, show frustration visibly. You could see the gesture of hate and ill will towards a player was done in arm throws and hand movements. You know, now he’s older. Spike ain’t gettin up. He’s just shoulder-shrugging all game. Shoulder shrugging and head shaking, that’s not trash talking.
John: What about players? Any players that make the list?
Kevin: Draymond [Green]. Draymond talks some trash.
John: Yeah, Draymond’s solid.
Kevin: Draymond’s really good at talking trash. You know what KD [Kevin Durant] with the Warriors is a shit talker.
Kevin: Yeah. With the Warriors. KD playing for the Warriors is a trash talker. He wasn’t...
John: So he kind of like joined the gang and now…
Kevin: Yeah because when he was at OKC, you know you can’t out-aggressive Westbrook… If you ever did talk trash and then you see Westbrook talk trash and your trash ain’t on that level, you go “Well I ain’t doin this no more. this sounds stupid”
You out there calling people Poopy Head. “I just dunked on you Poopy Head” “What? What you say?”
Russell out there barking like a dog and you call somebody a Poopy Face…Naw. I think that as he got with the Warriors too he changed but the reason why was there was more to prove. A different type of chip on his shoulder. The chip on his shoulder, it was about getting to business and getting to it on high levels.
John: Oh yeah like winning a championship.
Kevin: Yeah. So I think that's where that came from.
John: So for you, maybe you already touched on this with the Shannon Sharpe answer but what defines excellence in the arena of shit talking?
Kevin: Really knowing how to get up under somebody's skin. You know, Michael Jordan can get up under your skin. Reason being is because, when somebody talks trash to you and starts doing exactly what they said they would do, that’s a different level of anger that you gotta have. It’s like Floyd [Mayweather] talking trash before a boxing match.
Floyd will tell you I'm 50 and 0 for a reason. This is God given talent. He didn't choose you, He chose me. I’mma whoop your ass. And then you go in there and he whoops your ass and you really like “God didn’t bless me the way He blessed Floyd. I guess I don't have the talent.”
It's the same thing within basketball. Jordan tells you “I’mma fake right, I’mma go left and you ain’t gonna do nothin about it” What? What you gonna do? “You hear me. I told you what I’m gonna do. I’mma fake right, go left and you still ain’t gonna do nothin’ about it. And then he does it and you don’t [do anything about it], now you're dead for the rest of the game. I got your confidence. I got you where I want you because now you know you can't stop me. That’s great trash talking.
John: Where do you personally draw inspiration from? Do you have any inspirations?
Not with comedy, just in general. When you’re sitting court-side is there anything that you've been able to tap into? Could be from the neighborhood…
Kevin: I draw inspiration from- I’m sitting court-side, I have direct access to these guys. I can say what I want and I can get responses. If you make the mistake of responding to me one time - you’re finished. It’s over for you.
John: Tell me about this.
Kevin: I get to sit on the sideline, I got my drink, and I'm like the old guy on the porch complaining. The old guy on the porch can complain all day cause don't nobody else say nothin’ to his complaints, but the minute that you go “What you talking about?” Now he's “I’ll tell ya what I’m talking bout.” It’s just like me on the sideline. If I'm talking trash and you ignore me eventually I gotta just simmer down, nobody’s saying nothin to me. But if you go “Hey Kev, cool it.” Oh I got ya. I got you now, you gave me the reaction I was looking for.
John: To that point - have you ever been able to, like, feel like you’ve had an impact in a game?
Kevin: 100 percent. Good and bad.
John: Good and bad? Tell me about this.
Kevin: I’ve had an impact to where I've set players off. Amp players up to go on to have some of the best days of their lives. James Harden - he gave me 50. I say me because I feel like I was solely responsible for that.
John: When was that?
Kevin: This is when they played…I was filming a movie in Philadelphia, Untouchable, in a regular season game and first half he was struggling. And he gave us 42 in the second half. 42 points, I’ll never forget it. He kept looking over to me telling me to tell the team that I was responsible. I start shrugging my shoulders- I ain’t the one playin’ defense, ya’ll are, don’t blame me.
John: How about positively? Have you ever gotten in someone's head?
Kevin: Positively? Yeah, a lot of people. Yeah. I pissed Blake [Griffin] off one time, that was funny. Told him he was too light-skinned to be dunking like that. It was the most random stupid shit ever.
John: Are there any players in the NBA, historically or right now, that you think, you look at them and you're like I instantly can get in their head? Doesn’t have to be in the league right now but over the course of history that you would look at like “Man, If I coulda sat court-side I would’ve owned this guy”
Kevin: See, the greats, the great greats use that as ammunition. So the guys that you own are the people that don’t have that ability to tap into great. You know, I target the greats. I wanna amp the greats up to be great on that day, so I got a story that goes with greatness. You know, a regular player, you’re going to get in their head every time. Because they're thinking too much about the mistake that they made or about not making a mistake or about doing this, and it being wrong and getting taken out the game, just not playing at the highest level possible.
John: Not in a flow-state.
Kevin: Yes yes. So those players are much easier, but I don't go after them. That's the easy route to take.
John: You go after the greats.
Kevin: Yeah, you got to. Or the guys that have a lot of potential to be amazing in the league. That’s where all my conversation goes.
John: I think this is perfect.
Kevin: It’s good?
John: Yeah this is awesome. This is amazing. Thank you.
Research Document Vol. 4 Coming Soon...
Explore our previous volumes 1-3