Talk about SuperSonic.
It's tough to tell which is the louder sound in Seattle these days -- the almost deafening roar of Sonic fans giddy for the return of an NBA team or the constant barking coming from the other corner, Seahawks ace cover man Richard Sherman.
Sherman has gained more and more notoriety for his trash talk -- and his ability to back it up -- this season.
Seattle fans have seen it before, back before the Sonics were taken away … back when they were the same kind of perennial contenders the Hawks seem poised to become … back when they had the NBA's king of trash talk, Gary Payton.
Sherman is the new Payton. He's the Seattle player everyone else loves to hate -- even Seattle fans would hate these guys if they weren't Seattle players.
The similarities are pretty striking. Payton was the garrulous Glove, perennial first-team defender and one-time defensive player of the year who was just as likely to get into an opponent's head as he was to get into his back pocket. Sherman does the same thing.
Not since Payton has Seattle, typically a mild-mannered sports city, seen a trash talker of that caliber who also had All-Star skills to back it up.
Sherman does, and he has been padding both resumes all season.
He started with an interception in the opener against Arizona -- the first of eight picks on the season (tied for second in the NFL). He ran off four straight games with forced turnovers (two picks, two fumbles) in Weeks 4-7.
Sherman had a tough game in a loss to Detroit as the Seahawks' zone failed utterly in a last-second loss. But he came back to pick off five passes in the final seven games. He had two in the 58-0 blowout of Arizona, including a 19-yard return for a touchdown.
Through it all, he has been talking -- on and off the field. Just like Payton in his brash glory days.
Sherman burst onto the national stage in Week 5 after he picked off Tom Brady and the Seahawks rallied to beat the Patriots 24-23. Sherman, who had bantered with Brady throughout the game, became infamous for his tweeted postgame photo with the superimposed words, "U mad, bro?"
Then he called his former college coach, Jim Harbaugh, a bully after the 49ers' boss complained about the physical play of Sherman and fellow cornerback Brandon Browner in San Francisco's 13-6 victory in Week 7.
Sherman stirred the trash-talking pot some more by calling himself "Optimus Prime" ahead of the Week 8 "Transformers" matchup against Detroit's superstar receiver, Calvin "Megatron" Johnson. But Optimus and his friends held Megatron to three catches for 46 yards -- his first coming late in the third quarter. (Of course, they failed to hold down Titus Young as the Lions rallied to beat them.)
Sherman even trash-talked the league.
In December, he became the focus of a high-profile drug test. He maintained confidence that he would be (or at least should be) vindicated via the appeals process, but he also called out the NFL for thinking itself above the law: "The league's argument was they are allowed to make mistakes, and they're allowed to break the rules, and they can get away with it. It's up to them. The appeal officer is paid by the league, so if he goes their way, that's what it is. It's not an even playing field in the appeal room."
But, just as he does on the field, Sherman won the war of words and the war of the score: In a stunning reversal, his four-game suspension was indeed overturned.
Then Sherman went back to talking on the field.
He has become so known for it that the NFL put a microphone on him for the playoff game against Washington. And the league was not disappointed as Sherman chirped the entire game -- trying to get the Redskins to throw the ball in his direction, waving goodbye to the fans, complaining to his coaches that the Skins were not throwing to him.
In a December interview with Yahoo Sports, Sherman explained his approach: "I'll go say something to the quarterback. I'm like, 'Hey man, I'm over here. Don't be scared to throw it my way from time to time. I'm just your friendly neighborhood cornerback.' And then they'll throw it up. You've got to find a button, and push it."
He definitely pushed Trent Williams' button. They got into a shoving match on the first play of the game, and then the Pro Bowl tackle smacked Sherman in the face after the game.
"Just high emotions, man, and I let them get the best of me," Williams told reporters. "It's nobody's fault but mine."
Williams apologized to Sherman, who accepted it and wished Williams well in the Pro Bowl.
That's an honor Sherman was skipped over for it in favor of Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, who had seven interceptions.
Sherman finished third in fan voting, which means the coaches and players are the ones who downgraded him. Whether it was because of the drug test or his trash-talking ways, Sherman was named a first alternate.
He brushed off the slight, saying All-Pro honors are more significant anyway and he has his sights set on a bigger prize.
The Hawks took their first step toward that goal last week, and Sherman was happy to tell the Redskins about it -- just as he has told every opponent this season.
"Sherm has been himself. He’s just being himself," Carroll told reporters. "He’s also learning through the course of the season he’s a pretty good football player. Has he crossed the line? I don’t think so. But he’s hanging on that line sometimes.”
Just like Payton used to do.