In the latest edition of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Bill sits down with two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant once again to break down the media coverage of the 2018–19 Warriors, the standout play of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson, the new-look 76ers and Kings, and much more. Part of their conversation centers on KD’s experiences with trash talk on the court — and how some of this generation’s top players have approached using it. Here’s Durant explaining the trash-talk philosophies of Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Garnett.
This transcription has been edited and condensed. Listen to the full podcast here.
Simmons: The first big OKC playoff series was against the 2010 Lakers, right?
Simmons: Did you guys talk shit to Kobe or were you just quiet?
Durant: Nah. You quiet against the best like that.
Simmons: Do you feel like you’re too deferential?
Durant: No, it’s not like you’re too nice, either. You just don’t say anything. Just do your job. You’re not going overboard trying to push him over and talk shit to him just because you wanna be tough. Or you’re not being super nice to him because he’s Kobe Bryant. You’re just playing as hard as you can because that’s what he’s gonna respect more than anything.
Simmons: Did he talk shit to you?
Durant: No, he never started anything. He always just finished it. I mean, if you’re talking shit to him, he’s gonna diss it back out. It’s no holds barred. He’s gonna say whatever comes to mind, and it’s usually just flexing on everybody.
Simmons: I feel like he took [Jayson] Tatum under his wing intentionally to try to screw up the Celtics. All of sudden Tatum is shooting these 19-foot fall-aways with a hand in his face. And I’m like, “You weren’t doing that last year. Why are you listening to Kobe?”
Durant: [Tatum] was doing that. He probably wasn’t doing it six times a game. He probably was only three times a game last year.
Simmons: I don’t trust Kobe’s intentions. I know he doesn’t like the Celtics — all of a sudden he wants to help out Jayson Tatum?
Durant: Why would he like the Celtics?
Simmons: That’s my point. He doesn’t like my team. Stay away from our best player. Our best young player.
Durant: Stay away from him? He can’t even talk basketball with him?
Simmons: No, stay away. I’m not interested in your input, Kobe. In 2011, you played Dallas in the playoffs, and I think you were actually favored. Dirk ended up having the run, and he ended up beating LeBron and Wade and all those guys in the Finals. … Did Dirk talk shit?
Durant: No, he ain’t talk shit. He one of those dudes, too, you talk shit to him, he’ll just kind of look at you like, What are you doing? He’ll proceed to bust your ass. He won’t say much, but he’ll acknowledge that you’re talking shit. But he never said nothing, neither. He just played.
You could tell he was a dog. He just didn’t give a fuck about you. He didn’t care if you talked shit. He was still gonna go to work.
Simmons: Who talked the most shit of anyone in your generation?
Simmons: KG? Even when he was kind of like past his prime, he was still talking like he was a superstar.
Durant: He started games talking shit, that’s how he got going.
Simmons: Did he talk shit to you?
Durant: Yeah. Oh yeah. My first game against him.
Simmons: So KG was the king?
Durant: First of all, I don’t look at shit-talking from anybody but elite guys. If you’re not elite, and you’re talking shit, then it’s just like another guy talking shit.
Simmons: Yeah, but I knew that already ’cause when Enes Kanter talks shit, [you] get mad. Like, why are you saying shit, Enes? You have that look on your face.
Durant: Yeah, it’s one of things, like I shouldn’t even be talking to Enes Kanter. He’s a good player, but it’s just like, not up there. I get mad at myself when I talk back to Enes Kanter. But if I say something to KG, I’m like, “All right, bet. Yeah. I’m with it today.”
KG, it’s just like, aw, you gotta be on your game today, outside of playing. Like you gotta know this is one of those nights.
Simmons: You never played against Mike, did you?
Durant: No, did I play against Mike?
Simmons: Not in the NBA. But you never scrimmaged against him or played a Nike thing or any of that shit?
Durant: Oh, no, never been around him on the court.
Simmons: I got to see him once, at the Four Seasons, playing bourré with three other guys. And he became full MJ and started bullying and trash-talking. I was like, “Oh, this is great.” It was him and [Charles] Oakley against two other people that I didn’t know.
Durant: Him and Oakley together playing cards, I bet that’s a dynamic duo. ’Cause Oak come in and start talking.
Simmons: Well, I wrote about this when it happened, ’cause they sat down at this table and I just felt like the cards were gonna come out. They just had that look to them. And then all of sudden cards came out and they were off. I’m trying to think who else were the famous trash talkers. … Iverson. Iverson was famous. What do you think of Iverson being courtside for these Philly games now? I kind of like it.
Durant: He is the 76ers. For this generation.