Larry Bird remains regarded as one of the most influential players in NBA history. The former Boston Celtics lifted the franchise to tremendous heights while cementing his place among the all-time greats. His play also garnered immense respect from his peers, leading fellow Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to voice a tremendous compliment.
Larry Bird’s iconic NBA career
Bird spent his 13-year NBA career donning a Celtics uniform, where he established himself as one of the greatest players in league history.
The French Lick product immediately brought the Celtics back into relevance behind sustained championship success. Bird won three NBA titles and two Finals MVP awards in five appearances, earned three regular-season MVP awards, and received 12 All-Star selections and nine All-NBA First Team nods. He remains the only forward in league history to win three consecutive regular-season MVP awards.
The former Celtics great elevated his legacy another notch behind his infamous trash talk, garnering tremendous respect from his peers. Bird held the utmost confidence in his ability that allowed him to pull the most out of himself.
His legendary rivalry with Magic Johnson also provided a substantial source of internal motivation while lifting the NBA to global popularity it hadn’t reached before. The iconic battles against the Los Angeles Lakers also led another Hall of Famer to dish out the ultimate compliment.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar paid Larry Bird the biggest compliment ever: ‘They think he’s a chubby white guy’
Bird anchored Boston’s sustained success behind his dominance on the court.
It pitted the Celtis against their hated rival Lakers, leading to numerous memorable battles between the historic franchises. The fierce competition developed a strong level of respect toward Bird. Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stated on “In The Zone” podcast with Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that Bird separated himself behind his high basketball IQ.
“The best guy I’ve played against might have been Larry Bird,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “People don’t appreciate Larry Bird enough. They think he is a chubby white guy, but he would wear us down. The muscle that is in between his ears was the best because he made three points, assisted, rebounded, and had steals. He was always in the right place at the right time. He is, without a doubt, one of the best players I’ve had ever played against.”
Bird’s all-around play elevated him among his peers, but his feel for the game was second to none. It allowed him to impact the game more greatly despite his limited athletic ability. His basketball IQ made him a more effective passer and efficient scorer.
Bird certainly had his shortcomings defensively, but he more than compensated with his stellar play in other areas of the game. Abdul-Jabbar recognized that as it became a separating factor that earned the former Celtics great recognition as one of the NBA’s greatest talents.
Legendary legacy remains a firm fixture in NBA history
Bird’s NBA legacy has only grown stronger in the nearly three decades since he played his last game.
The former Celtics great transformed the franchise back into a powerhouse. Meanwhile, his rivalry with Johnson played a pivotal part in saving the NBA from a disastrous fate. Bird remains among the gold standard that the many generations of talent behind him aspire to reach while he’s left an everlasting impact on the game of basketball.
He may not have been the most athletically-gifted player or physically dominated his opponents. Still, he left an unmistakable imprint that has helped shape the NBA into what it has become.