‘Too small’ taunt, explained: Origin story behind NBA’s most disrespectful sign of trash talk

Basketball, like most other sports, is a game of strategy. In the NBA, a league where the average height of a player is 6-foot-7, much of the strategy is related to size advantages, or disadvantages, depending on how you view them.

On any given night, you’re guaranteed to see NBA teams attempt to exploit these size-related mismatches. And with size-related mismatches comes one of the most disrespectful signs of trash talk: the “too small” taunt.

How did this taunt even come to be? Let’s take a look back at its history and some of the more notable instances in which it has been used.

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‘Too small’ taunt, explained: Origin story behind NBA’s trash talk phenomenon

The taunt itself is pretty straightforward. When a player scores on a defender that they deem to be too small to stop them, they lower a hand to the ground to make sure everyone in the arena and everyone watching on television knows that their opponent doesn’t measure up.

In the above examples, the taunt is pretty ironic. Jose Alvarado is generously listed at 6-foot, while Ja Morant is said to stand at 6-foot-2. Neither Alvarado nor Morant tower over their competition, which tells you everything you need to know about the taunt itself not being completely size related.

6-foot-1 Trae Young doesn’t exactly tower over the 6-foot-1 Jevon Carter, either, but Young seems to go to the “too small” taunt with regularity. Perhaps it’s a response to the criticism of his size coming into the league.

With all of this in mind, the most accurate translation of what the taunt means would be this: “He can’t guard me, try someone bigger.”

It’s unclear who exactly did this first, but the list of players to employ the “too small” taunt includes a who’s who of NBA stars. If you go back to January of 2018, Russell Westbrook, still a member of the Thunder, brought out a variation of the taunt after finishing through Malik Monk’s contact.

Westbrook lowers his hand to talk to him, which is admittedly a uniquely Westbrook way of doing things, but an example from five seasons ago is a great place to start.

Just over a year later in the same arena, Chris Paul brought it out against Kemba Walker, yet another hilarious example involving two small guards.

Or how about Morant employing the taunt just 11 games into his NBA career?

Somehow, the Grizzlies seem to be involved in a lot of these.

In a tightly contested game early in the 2020-21 season, LeBron James passed the message along to Dillon Brooks.

The best part about this taunt is that each player has room to put their own individual spin on it. It’s quite hilarious to see players under 6-foot-5 bring it out and even funnier when players do it despite being at a size disadvantage.

Case in point:

Kevin Durant, who probably has a size advantage over his defender at least 95 percent of the time, has even employed his own variation of the “too small” taunt.

Ouch. I’m sure he and Royce O’Neale have patched that up since becoming teammates.

From smaller guards like Morant and Paul to matchup nightmares like Durant and James, you could very well see this one at any time in any game. Add Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic as two more matchup nightmares that remind you that you can’t hold them.

And in case you want someone to reiterate the message, the Mavs bench is more than willing to do so.

From coast to coast and guards to bigs, the “too small” taunt is a phenomenon that you’re sure to see during an NBA game.

If you didn’t know before, now you’ll understand just why players are lowering their hands to the floor when they get a bucket. It appears the taunt is here to stay.

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