Organizing a press conference can be a great idea. It will allow you the opportunity to reach all media outlets at the same time and / or provide a personal perspective on a particular story. A press conference can also build excitement or anticipation about a particular event or idea. It arms you with the possibility of telling your story, rather than just answer other people’s questions. There’s a big difference. Some coaches and athletes are natural talents at giving press conferences, others … are not. Fortunately for us, in both cases the result can be really enjoyable to watch. Some press conferences have achieved absolutely iconic status. Check-out these short clips of my personal TOP 10 of the Most Memorable Press Conferences Ever!
Mike Tyson (Vs. Lennox Lewis), “You can’t last 2 minutes in my world”, January 22, 2002
It’s perhaps no surprise that at a few pre-fight / boxing press conferences have made it into this list. The press conference prior to the Mike Tyson Vs Lennox Lewis fight, turned into a brawl before it had even started. As soon as Lenox Lewis appears on stage Tyson launches an attack. Before long the boxers are wrestling on the ground, with representatives of both camps getting a piece of the action. During the incident WBC president José Sulaimán claimed to be knocked out. He later filed a US$56 million lawsuit against Lewis and Tyson. Following the fight Tyson comes to the edge of the podium of the Hudson Theatre, and issues a tirade towards freelance journalist Mark Malinowski (who had suggested that Tyson should be put in a straitjacket). Mike Tyson is – beyond the shadow of a doubt – one of the best fighters of all-time, but I think it’s safe to conclude this press conference was not amongst his best ever performances
Avery Johnson, “What was YOUR impression?”, 15 June, 2006
In this press conference (following game 4 of the 2006 NBA Finals vs. the Miami Heat), reporter Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News asks Johnson a question about a particular referee call. The question could be perceived as a deliberate attempt to bait Johnson into commenting about the game’s questionable officiating. Avery Johnson attempts to have the journalist make this point without him having to actually criticize the refs. If Johnson would have done so himself he’d surely be fined by the NBA. The reporter attempts to avoid giving the answer he was initially looking for himself, chokes, stutters and chooses not to mention the referees after all. By the way, the refs did make some questionable calls and Dwyane Wade went to the foul line an astounding 97 times in that series.
Kevin Borseth, “I’m not gonna sleep!”, February 28, 2008
Kevin Borseth is the women’s basketball head coach at Michigan. For those of you less familiar with this clip; apparently Borseth is quite passionate about rebounding! This press conference was given shortly after Michigan gave up an 18-point lead to Wisconsin, losing the game 69-67. Some viewers commented coach Borseth strongly reminded them of “Seinfeld’s” Kramer. Others, like ESPN.com’s Graham Hays made an effort to defend Borseth and place his one-off outburst in a wider context. Either way, (I assume even Coach Borseth agrees) it made a great clip.
Dennis Green “Da Bears are what we thought they were!” October 16, 2006
After losing a 20-point lead over the Chicago Bears in less than twenty minutes, the generally soft-spoken Green threw a tirade during a post-game media conference. Green lashed out in response to questions about Arizona’s defense that forced six turnovers and for most of the game shut down the Chicago offense. I think they were who they thought they were. But what do you think? In stead of his defense hitting their quarterback, Green ended up hitting microphones. Green later apologized for the outburst, and got fired in January, although he had a year left on his contract. Like some other press conference clips in this list its still comically used in media coverage and advertising today. Here’s this moment mocked in a Coors TV advertisement.
Giovanni Trapattoni “Ich habe fertig” March 10, 1998
In 1998 the Italian Trappattoni was the head coach of FC Bayern Munich – the most iconic German soccer team (nicknamed FC Hollywood). In this press conference Trapattoni heatedly discusses his players, mainly Thomas Strunz (whose last name incidentally resembles an Italian swear word). In his speech, with a heavy Italian accent and filled with grammatical mistakes (most famously using “Ich habe fertig” (roughly translatable as “I am finished”) and “Schwach wie eine Flasche leer” (“weak like a bottle empty”) Trapattoni shares his views on some internal player criticism. It was a great and brave speech to give. I’ve picked a YouTube version featuring “English” subtitles and to those of you that spot some grammatical mistakes: you’re right – but that’s the point. For the most part, Trapattoni’s words are (sort of) German, but his grammar and word order are Italian. It’s confusing, try keeping-up. By the way the expression “Ich habe fertig!” has reached absolute iconic status in Germany and started living a life on its own, such as being used by the SPD (The Social Democratic Party of Germany) as a slogan in their (unsuccessful) campaign against Helmut Kohl and the CDU/CSU in 1990.
Mike Gundy “I’m a man, I’m 40!” September 22, 2007
Following Oklahoma State’s victory over the Texas Tech Raiders, Gundy was so displeased with an article in The Oklahoman criticizing one of his players that, instead of answering questions about the game, he completely lost himself in an emotional postgame tirade defending his quarterback. The nationwide response was enormous. The video was placed all over the web and cumulatively collected well over 6 million hits. “I’m a man, I’m forty!” is now part of football history. Here’s a Coors Light commercial based on The Rant and this is Mike Gundy himself on ESPN reflecting years later.
Coach Hal Mcrae “Questions anybody?” April 26, 1993
In this video, shot on April 26, 1993, Coach Hal McRae (Kansas City Royals) has a major meltdown after a 5–3 loss against the Detroit Tigers. It’s quite possibly the best post-game rant by a coach ever. He doesn’t only yell profanities at the reporters; he trashes his entire office, throwing things off of his desk including a phone. The phone actually cuts one of the reporters on impact. In hindsight the journalist probably asked a perfectly good question. A simple “no” would have worked also… but than again; you’ve got to admire the “360 degree phone toss” somewhere right in the middle of his rant. Classic!
Allen Iverson “Practice makes perfect” September 3, 2002
On May 7th, 2002 Allen Iverson (nicknamed “AI” and “The Answer”), answered the question “Could you be clear about your practicing habits, since we can’t see you practice?” The answer became an absolute all-time press conference classic. He managed to mention the word „practice” about 22,5 times in only one answer. If you haven’t seen this before, it’s definitely worth a click. His coach, Larry Brown commented to reporters the next day that: ”Iverson said “practice” more times than he’s actually practiced.” If you enjoy this clip please make sure to also check-out the Press Conference Bonus Track: “The Press Hop” at the bottom of this post.
Eric Cantona From Kung Fu Panda to Yoda January / February, 1995
Eric Cantona, at the time playing for Manchester United FC, was involved in an incident which attracted headlines and controversy worldwide. On January 25, 1995 United is playing an away match against Crystal Palace. Eric Cantona gets sent off by the referee for a foul against Palace defender Richard Shaw. As he’s walking towards the tunnel, he launches a ‘kung-fu panda’ style kick into the crowd, directed at Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons. Check-out the video here. Following the incident Cantona is arrested and convicted for assault, resulting in a two week prison sentence. This was overturned in the appeal court and instead he’s sentenced to 120 hours of community service. Immediately following this verdict Eric Cantona declines to answer any questions and only speaks his famous Yoda-like words: “When the seagulls follow a trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”. In his view the media are the seagulls. They know they’re on to a great story, his quotes are the sardines, and Cantona himself is the trawler. He’s determined not to give into them, resulting in this seafaring metaphor and memorable quote. Eric Cantona, currently the Director of Football for the New York Cosmos recently commented on the Kung Fu incident, describing it as his personal career highlight: “My best moment? I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.”
Muhammad Ali “I’m so mean, I make medicine sick!” September 1974
This press conference, building the hype for the historic “Rumble in the Jungle”, was held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The event was one of Don King’s first ventures as a professional boxing promoter. It’s also Don Kings voice you’ll hear responding to Ali’s monologue; “That’s bad!”. For me the true beauty of this monologue is in the delivery, speed and authenticity. Mohammed Ali is unique. In the beginning you actually wonder; “He did what, wrestle an alligator?!”. The footage is taken from the 1996 documentary “When We Were Kings” (if you have not seen it yet, it’s a timeless and warmly recommended master piece). The fight in Kinshasa is very well documented but unfortunately I couldn’t find a lot of information on the press conference itself. Even if the words were all written by Don King and Ali memorised the entire thing top to bottom, his delivery is truly spotless! If Ali (spontaneously) came up with some of these great words on stage – he’s even more amazing! Either way it makes ‘The Greatest of All Time’ number 1 on my list.
Press Conference Bonus Track: “The Press Hop” DJ Steve Porter
If you want more Press Conference Classics, check-out this video. Allen Iverson’s legendary press conference provided the backbone for DJ Steve Porter’s catchy “Press Hop”. Besides A.I. the music video (which by now boasts well-over 3.5 million hits) features memorable press conference high-lights from Dennis Green, Joe Namath, Mike Gundy and Terrell Owens.