Larry Bird is arguably a top-5 player of all time, but he got there with skill and intelligence rather than otherworldly athletic ability.
The NBA has traditionally been dominated by black players ever since they were first allowed in the league. Nearly every superstar from every era you can think of is of African-American origin.
Larry Bird is one of the few all-time greats who was white, and he has the respect of every player ever. The Hick from French Lick talked more smack than most of his opponents from the inner city. And he had unreal skill to back it up.
Bird is the last NBA player to have won 3 MVP trophies in successive seasons. He defined the 80s era of Celtics basketball, rivaling Magic Johnson’s Showtime Lakers. Bird’s Celtics played a deliberate, measured offense in contrast to the fast-paced Lakers offense.
How Larry Bird says he coped up with the athletic ability of his opponents
There’s a famous tale of how Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird had a go at each other in their first-ever matchup. Wilkins embodied the athletic peak of the league at the time, while Bird was the measuring yardstick for skill. Wilkins’ tale tells everyone about Bird’s mentality:
“The first time I played him in the Boston Garden, I go to shake his hand, and he puts his hands behind his back. I’m like, ‘Oh, OK?’ The first play of the game, he says, ‘You don’t even belong in this league,’ and he hits a three. He did it again on the second time down.”
“I jump and he jumps. I got him, and I dunked it on him. I’m talking at him. I’m talking crap. He said, ‘I like you, you’ve got heart.’ Except he didn’t say heart.”
“[Then he said], ‘I’m still getting 40 on you tonight’.”
“I wasn’t real quick, and I wasn’t real strong.
Some guys will just take off and it’s like, whoa.
So I beat them with my mind and my fundamentals”
– Larry Bird pic.twitter.com/wIKaLBoILu
— Coach Mac 🏀 (@BballCoachMac) January 9, 2018
Bird prided himself on getting his opponents rattled with his skill and trash talk
“I wasn’t real quick, and I wasn’t really strong. Some guys will just take off and it’s like, whoa. So I beat them with my mind and my fundamentals.”