Pat Riley once said that he would take Michael Jordan in a close game situation but would take Larry Bird in a do-or-die situation.
Michael Jordan is undoubtedly one of the greatest crunch time performers in league history. Advanced statistics regarding his how good he was in the clutch only date back to his final two seasons with the Chicago Bulls but even in his mid-30s, it’s apparent that he was an absolute unit when the game went down to the wire.
He led the league in clutch-time scoring in the ‘98 season by scoring a whopping 156 points over the course of 37 such situations. Though he did shoot a sub-par percentage from the field (42.6%), NBA players knew him having the ball with the game on the line meant it was trouble for opposing defenses.
Even with all the hoopla surrounding Michael Jordan and his greatness in the clutch, Pat Riley decided to throw it all out the window to proclaim that he would much rather have Larry Bird in those situations.
Pat Riley on Larry Bird being a greater clutch scorer than Michael Jordan.
Larry Bird has had his fair share of iconic clutch moments during his illustrious 13 year career. Who can forget his 1988 Game 7 performance against the Hawks where he scored 34 points while duking it out with a case of pneumonia to lead the Celtics to the series victory or the time, he stole the inbounds pass in Game 5 against Detroit for Dennis Johnson lay-up.
Larry Bird had a knack to make a clutch shot after having just made one. Whether it was his signature high release pull-up from elbows or an acrobatic lay-up (Bird was sneaky with his athleticism in terms of contorting his body for a shot at the rim), ‘Larry Legend’ drained shot after shot when it matters the most.
This prompted Pat Riley to say this about Michael Jordan in comparison to Larry Bird:
“If I had to choose a player to take a shot to save a game, I’d choose Michael Jordan. If I had to choose a player to take a shot to save my life, I’d take Larry Bird.”
“If I had to choose a player to take a shot to save a game I’d choose Michael Jordan.. If I had to choose a player to take a shot to save my life… I’d take Larry Bird.”
– Pat Riley pic.twitter.com/lHKAzFyXmY
— Larry Bird☘️ (@LarryBirdDaily) August 12, 2020
Pat Riley would know best when it comes to this, considering the fact that his Lakers faced off against Bird’s Celtics on numerous occasions from the regular season to the NBA Finals.