Michael Jordan was first cemented as a true NBA superstar when Celtics legend Larry Bird commended him for his 63-point performance.
In the Celtics’ first round series with the Bulls in 1986, the two NBA legends faced off against each other. In Game 2 of the 5-game series, Jordan put the Bulls on his back and set a record for highest points in a playoff game. This is a record that stands till today.
Michael’s efforts stretched the game unto 3 overtimes, when the Celtics pulled away and sealed a 135-131. Jordan scored on 22 of his 41 shot attempts and 19 of his 21 free throw attempts. The Celtics threw all they had at the youngster, then only 23 years old, but there was no stopping His Airness.
Larry Bird showered Michael Jordan with praise, saying it was God disguised as MJ
After Game 2, Larry Bird claimed God had disguised himself as Michael Jordan for the game.
“That wasn’t Michael Jordan out there, that was God disguised as Michael Jordan.” – Larry Bird
— NBA (@NBA) April 20, 2020
At the time of speaking, Larry Bird was on the verge of becoming the last player to win 3 straight MVP trophies. He was at arguably the peak of his career and had averaged 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2 steals per game that past regular season. The Celtics had a 67 win season and a staggering 40-1 home record – the best in NBA history.
Bird topped this off with a vintage playoff run averaging 26 points, 9.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game en route his third NBA title. The Celtics team of this season is commonly viewed as one of the top 3 teams in NBA history.
The way Jordan imposed his will on this team with a legendary guard defender like Dennis Johnson says something about his dominance.
Bird would go on to play out 13 seasons with the Celtics, as one of the elite players in the league right till the end as a 36 year old. Michael was at the peak of his individual and team success when Bird stepped out of the league with back problems.