The Art of the Heckle

Kevin Coppola is the dean of The Kevcops Institute of Applied Heckling…

Full disclosure: I am a ride or die Spurs fan. Born and raised and all that. Get a few whiskey drinks in me and I will tell you (read: shout at you) that San Antonio is the greatest city on Earth. Get the same amount of whiskey drinks in me and I am in prime heckle mode.

Some say that heckling is a ‘detriment’ and ‘degrades the sport.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is trash talk a time honored NBA tradition, but it makes you a member of the team. If you can get inside someone’s head and cause a miss, you have done your job as a fan. Rattling a road-hardened NBA player can be a challenge, but that’s why I have prepared some useful tips that you use the next time you heckle.

Location, Location, Location

I was blessed to get fourth row tickets (#humblebrag) to Game 1 of Spurs-Clippers, which means I was in the ear of anyone who was lucky enough to receive my wrath. Don’t let my mad connects deter you — you can still prove to be an effective heckler in a seat that isn’t so close but you must project your voice.

The real value was in the side I was on: opponent’s side in the second half. This is huge. Like a finely tuned athlete, you are going to need to get a few warm up heckles before you pull out your heaters. Get a few jabs in during the first half but don’t get too fancy. You are going to want to win the crowd over first, so you don’t become ‘that guy.’ By the time the second half rolls around, your neighbors will think you are just an enthusiastic, harmless bro. This is when you kick it into high gear and mentally crush the opposing team.

Find Your Mark

Successfully heckling is a lot like going to a nightclub to meet women. Sure you want to jump on that dimepiece as soon as you walk in there, but they are just as ready to take you down, so play it cool, boy. Real cool.

Of course I would’ve loved to go right at Chris Paul, but not only would my shouts fall on deaf ears, since he is one cool customer, but he also would make me pay for my shouts. Not to mention, a guy with that kind of record doesn’t have much to taunt. Who would get mentally shaken by a shout of “You single-handedly had people believe David West was an All-Star!!”? No one. That’s who.

I prefer to stick to bench players and/or young players, since they are the most visible about being rattled and are more likely to interact with you. For this game, my marks were 80 percent Mo Williams with 10 percent Eric Bledsoe, 5 percent Caron Butler and 5 percent Nick Young, since these were the guys I thought I could get to the easiest. At one point, Mo actually scanned the crowd for me. I win.

Put In Your Work Early

While your team needs to watch hours of tape to find weak spots and develop a game plan, you too must have a strong work ethic. If you want your insults to really hit your opponents in the gut, you’re gonna have to dig deep or at least Wikipedia these guys.

If I owned an NBA team there are two things I would do: 1) have a live funk band for arena music and 2) have heckling scouting reports in every seat. Someone didn’t get his taxes in on time? You can bet every time he goes to the line, M-V-P chants are replaced with I-R-S. Sex tape scandal? Everyone will have whatever dumb dirty talk lines you used right in front of them. Try to stay in the zone with that chatter in your ear, ya jackass.  If I discover you have an academic controversy on your permanent record, good luck Eric.

Sometimes you don’t have to be 100 percent accurate. I’m not saying to spread lies — that’s slander, which is illegal — but everyone makes mistakes. I had a heckle that made David Robinson laugh (yessssss), which turned out to be an error: “Mo! Hey Mo! How’s it feel to make it a habit of getting swept by the Spurs? I remember 2007.” I guess I don’t remember 2007 since he played for the Bucks and not the Cavs, but it was an honest mistake. Sorry, Mo.

Be Relentless but Be Creative

Look, no bones about it, being a hecklebro is tough work. You gotta dig deep. 48 minutes of insults will wear on anyone, but this is no excuse to get lazy. If your best insults are “Hey Blake! You Suck!” you have no business being ‘on’ the court. You are allowed to ‘phone it in’ every once and awhile but you’re going to want a body of work that you can be proud of.

One of my high notes during Game 1 was shouting at Mo Williams, “Hey Mo! You gotta ask LeBron how to use that headband to cover up your hairline bro! You’re Norwood stage 2!” Is Mo Williams familiar with the Norwood scale for male pattern baldness? Probably not, but it’s my dream he Googled it when he got back to his hotel room.

As for fillers, my filler material of choice is sing-songing a dude’s name for a while, which seriously broke Paul Millsap a few years ago, prompting Andrei Kirilenko to tell us in less than kind words to “quiet down.”

That’s pretty much it. There is a definite science to a successful heckle but don’t stress out about it. The great ones always break the rules. Make it an experience, encourage novice hecklers, but most of all have fun with it. If I see you on TV getting knocked into a Metta World Peace-induced coma, that is essentially getting your doctorate from The Kevcops Institute of Applied Heckling. Happy heckling my friends and Go Spurs Go!