Beyond being one of the NBA’s greatest players, Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird established himself as a notorious trash-talker. Bird never showcased any fear from a challenge while he wasn’t afraid to dish out a few choice words. The Hall of Famer once used a pickup game to prove why trash-talking him wasn’t the best idea.
Larry Bird’s iconic NBA career
Bird entered the NBA as a promising young talent, who quickly established himself as an all-time great.
The former Celtics great accomplished it all in his 13-year NBA career behind three NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVP awards, three regular-season MVP honors, 12 All-Star selections, nine All-NBA First Team nods, and the retirement of his No. 33 jersey.
However, his trash-talking ability lifted him to iconic status, which showcased its way through during his time with the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.
Larry Bird once dominated a pickup game to prove trash-talking him was a terrible idea: ‘Hey Larry, you ain’t hit a jumper since ’84!’
Bird’s notorious reputation as a trash-talker remained with him throughout his illustrious NBA career.
At the same time, the former Celtics great never backed down from a verbal challenge from an opposing player. One of those situations arose during his time with the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.
After the college team surprisingly defeated the stacked Olympic team, it created strong confidence from the young athletes. During an interview on the Knuckleheads podcast, former NBA star Jamal Mashburn, who played on the college team, recalled his teammate Rodney Rogers trash-talking Bird the day before the two teams played again.
“Rodney Rogers says something to a group of Dream Team members like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson,” Mashburn said. “Everybody’s shooting their s–t, and Rodney Rogers said, ‘Hey Larry, you ain’t hit a jumper since ’84!’ Magic heard that s–t and we didn’t think anything of it.
The next day we came in. And I’ve never seen this, this was when I was like, ‘This is a different breed.’ Magic Johnson fed Larry Bird the ball probably about 8 times in a row downcourt. Larry Bird got the ball on Rodney Rogers, and every time he was about to make a move, he told him what he was going to do. One dribble pull-up going left, glass – bucket. One dribble going right, spin, shot – bucket.”
“He scored 9 times or 8 times in a row. Left the court to lay down because he couldn’t sit on the bench with his back problems. And said ‘Young fella, look like ’84, huh?’”
Although Bird wasn’t the player he once was due to nagging back issues, he had enough energy to put a trash-talker in his place. Regardless of the time and place, the former Celtics great was always up for the challenge.
Larry Bird’s trash-talking fueled his iconic NBA legacy
Bird may have been an infamous trash-talker, but it wasn’t that aspect that endeared him dearly to his peers.
His ability to back it up with his play pushed the respect and admiration toward him to another level. Many of his former colleagues still speak quite fondly of him because he always backed up his bold remarks.
“He’s always talked trash,” Ewing said during an interview on the Dan Patrick Show. “He talked trash against us. He talked trash against everyone else, but you know what the difference is that he could back it up.”
Bird was an all-time great talent, but his trash-talking added another element to his legacy, lifting his illustrious NBA status to another stratosphere.