Larry Bird will always be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever grace a basketball court.
His preternatural shooting and passing were incredible for the time. Bird himself was virtually ahead of his time, having the size and length of a big man, but the basketball skills of a guard. Bird’s basketball IQ was also Mensah-level. He was never the most fleet-footed or athletically gifted defender, though he was a plus defensive player because he could practically suss out opposing team’s plays and strategies on the fly.
Bird also won three NBA championships, a feat that only a handful of players can ever claim. On top of that, Bird was the best player on arguably the greatest NBA team ever assembled, the 1986 Boston Celtics. Even after his ailing back had betrayed him and forced him into retirement, Bird excelled as a coach and general manager for his home-state Indiana Pacers. To this day, Bird is still the only person to ever win an MVP, a Coach of the Year and an Executive of the Year award in the NBA.
The accomplishments and skills of Bird are Hall-of-Fame-worthy, wherein which he was inducted as part of the 1998 class.
But there’s one other aspect of Bird’s game that virtually all of his peers agree no one can match — trash-talking.
Bird was a legendary trash-talker, with stories ranging from the cold-hearted to the eerily prophetic.
For example, Bird infamously walked into the locker room before the NBA’s inaugural All-Star weekend three-point shooting contest before addressing his competitors.
“I want all of you to know I am winning this thing. I’m just looking around to see who’s gonna finish up second,” Bird said. He won the whole contest. Bird proceeded to win the next two three-point shooting contests as well.
Former NBA superstar Reggie Miller recounted in his book, “I Love Being The Enemy,” the time he tried to mess with Bird’s head as he was about to shoot free throws. Bird calmly sank the first free throw and turned to Miller, who was a rookie at the time.
“You got to be kidding me. Rook, I’m the best shooter in the league right now. In the league. Understand? And you’re up here trying to say something?” Bird told Miller. Bird then proceeded to make the second free throw.
Anecdotes of that nature are endless, but one of the best ones came from his former teammate and fellow Celtics legend Kevin McHale.
Appearing Tuesday on “The Dan Patrick Show,” McHale recounted his personal favorite Larry Bird trash-talking story.
“We were playing in Phoenix and we were way up, we were like 15 (up), and we have the worst fourth quarter in the history. … We were terrible. And Larry’s bad. Larry’s missing shots, throwing it to the other team, throwing it in the third row,” McHale began.
“And they come back, and somehow they go up two. So we have an out-of-bounds play, I’m taking it out and Larry says, ‘I’m going to bust off the play and I’m just going to shoot a three.’ We’re down two. I’m like, ‘No, don’t do that. Let’s shoot a two, please. Go to the hole, try to get fouled. Let’s just get into overtime, see if we can’t win this game.’ And Larry says, ‘Nah, I’m just going to bust a three on them.’ I’m like ‘Oh my God.’ So he tells the Phoenix bench, tells the coaches, ‘Yeah, I’m just fixing to bust a three on you guys and just go home. I’m tired of this,’” McHale continued.
To the surprise of virtually nobody, Bird did what he said he was going to do.
“And he gets the ball, jumps out, busts the play, gets the ball at the slot, shoots the ball. As the ball is in the air, he kind of turns toward the Phoenix bench and yells, ‘Told you so,’ and starts running to the locker room. It went in.”
For those keeping track, Bird stared in the face of a furious Phoenix Suns comeback, called his walk-off shot despite a poor shooting performance, and buried the Suns.
That’s reason No. 1,534,088 why Larry Bird will always be better than LeBron James.
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