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Posted: February 2, 2011 12:28 p.m.

Time to learn the lost art of trash talk

So high school basketball has officially had its fundamental roots replaced with street ball — at least in Georgia. Great. I guess it's been happening for quite a while and maybe I'm just some old guy who doesn't get it. But after watching the Rockdale-Newton game Saturday, I can't help to wonder what basketball will look like in 20 years.

The game itself wasn't so bad. The Bulldogs came out hot and opened a huge lead and Newton was never able to recover despite a furious second-half comeback. The game had plenty of high-flying dunks. It was quite entertaining. It's all the other garbage in between that I could do without.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were two of the best players ever to put on a pair of Daisy Dukes in the NBA. A typical Bird-Magic matchup would start with a fist pump and a quick word at mid-court before the two would go at it for 48 minutes. And go at it they would. They'd play each other hard. They'd trash talk. But trash talk was along the lines of, "you can't check me" or "you better go find a new pair of shorts because I'm about to shake you out of yours". It was a rivalry. But one out of mutual respect for each other's ability — each others heart and passion for the game.

Watching Saturday's game, I didn't see that. Sadly, what I saw was a bunch of cocky teenagers running their mouths. Case in point, Rockdale bigman Darion Clark made a free throw in the second quarter then turned to Newton's bench, pursed his lips and raised his finger as to signal Newton's players to be quiet. After the second made free throw, he turned and stared at the bench again. What is that? Why? What are you doing?

The last time I saw anyone do that was Reggie Miller against the New York Knicks in 1993. But he was doing it toward miniature movie mogul Spike Lee. And Reggie had just scored 11 points in 8 seconds to win an NBA playoff game.

The difference between what Reggie and Clark did was simple. Reggie was the man and had responded to Lee's game-long verbal jabbing by ripping his heart out with his play. All Clark did was look like a decent high school player talking junk. Nothing more. Clark isn't the only one. I've seen it in girls games too. Ironically the one time I saw it was from a Rockdale player again.

This isn't an indictment on the Rockdale program. I'd prefer to take a shot at the adults. The referees allow this type of stuff to happen. Why? Why would you allow a kid to talk junk to another kid? Why would the coaches allow it? To Rockdale's credit, coaches removed Clark twice and took him aside to talk to him. Because he was acting like a thug and he's too good of a player — too important to his team to get kicked out for some nonsense. Honestly, though, those refs weren't going to kick him out. Nice gesture just the same.

The game hasn't changed but apparently what appeals to the everyday teenager has. For instance it's more about embarrassing a player than anything anymore. Take a blocked shot. It's not good enough to simply get a piece of an opponent's shot so he misses. Instead, it's better to block it with force, preferably so the ball flies out of bounds (giving the ball back to the offense of course) then turning to the guy you just blocked and either yell in his face or say something derogatory to him. Again, there's a right way to do things and that's not it.

A guy like Clark can be an intimidating force. But he needs to go watch some film of the Fab Five from the University of Michigan in the early '90s. Chris Webber would dunk on a 6-foot-10 guy all day. But what made him so dominant was the way everyone knew he would dunk on them. It's because when he did he, he let you know he could do it all game long. He told you that, then did it. That's trash talk. When he dunked in transition and would pound his chest and yell, it wasn't directed at any player. He stared at the crowd. Because he didn't care who you were. He was better.

The stuff we see now is garbage. Kids want to fight. Kids want to insult. They want to embarrass. I'd prefer they just play.

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