Former Boston Celtics great Larry Bird was one of the game’s greatest talents. Bird put together an iconic career that elevated him to legendary status. However, the Hall of Famer once stubbornly admitted he couldn’t beat Michael Jordan in a one-on-one game in retirement.
Larry Bird’s illustrious NBA career
Over his 13-year NBA career, Bird established himself as one of the game’s greatest talents.
The Indiana native played a crucial part in lifting the NBA toward a prominent status globally. He played his entire career with the Celtics, where he earned three NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVP awards, three regular-season MVP honors, 12 All-Star selections and nine All-NBA First Team nods, and he has his No. 33 jersey retired.
Bird remains the only forward in league history to win the regular-season MVP award in three straight years. His dominance on the court cemented him as an all-time talent, and he’s maintained his iconic status among his peers and the current generation of NBA stars.
However, the Hall of Famer once admitted to something involving Michael Jordan that crushed his competitive spirit a bit.
Larry Bird begrudgingly confesses his fate if he faced Michael Jordan 1-on-1 in retirement: “God I’d hate to admit this, but he’d kill me’
Despite stepping away from the game in 1992, Bird has remained around the NBA over the last couple of decades.
His status as an all-time great often brings up the conversation regarding his place alongside another of his stature in league history. During an interview on The Dan Patrick Show in July 2015, the former Celtics great disappointedly admitted that he would lose a one-on-one game to Jordan at their respective ages.
“Boy, that would be a good game,” Bird said. “In one-on-one with Jordan, God I’d had to admit this, but he’d kill me. I am 40 pounds more than I was when I played. I am broken down. I really don’t care like I used to and I have the fight in me, but it’s not the fight I once had, but it’d be a pretty close game.”
At the time of the interview, Bird was 58 years old amid his final stint with the Indiana Pacers as the president of basketball operations. It’s hard to imagine Bird being in serviceable basketball shape due to his struggles with back issues late in his career that forced him to retire.
Meanwhile, it’s well-documented that Jordan played pick-up games well past his final retirement in 2003. It’s quite fair to assess that at 52 years old, he would have handily beat Bird. Although it would be an entertaining game to watch, it would have likely been one-sided due to the Celtics legend’s health.
Iconic NBA status forever etched in stone
Regardless of the outcome of the hypothetical game, it wouldn’t change the legacy of either Hall of Famer.
The two are among the most competitive players in league history with internal drives to strive for greatness. Countless stories from their peers and many others lent further testimony to the unwavering passion they possess for the game of basketball.
Jordan sits atop the throne as arguably the greatest player who has ever stepped on the NBA hardwood. He holds the status as the gold standard generations of talent after him have aspired to reach. Meanwhile, Bird is an iconic player who, in many ways, helped save the league alongside Magic Johnson.
Beyond that, the two remain forever ingrained in the fabric of the league’s history as critical parts who helped shape its image and status.