Former Boston Celtics great Larry Bird played the game with a fierce competitive nature that brought out the best in himself. Bird’s passion for his craft led him to engage in trash-talking that garnered a legendary reputation. One of those instances led Bird to suffer a bloody mouth and a near hotel room fight with longtime guard Eddie Johnson.
Larry Bird trash-talked and dominated Eddie Johnson in their first career matchup
Bird tortured many of his peers with his ruthless trash-talk, leaving unforgettable memories.
Eddie Johnson, who played 17 NBA seasons, is among those that were on the receiving end of the former Celtics great’s legendary in-game banter. In the fifth game of Johnson’s career, Bird gave the former Kansas City Kings guard a taste of that infamous trash talk.
“There’s one particular one game in Boston. I’m scared to death already,” Johnson recalled during a recent interview on The Rex Chapman Show. “The veterans on my team said, “Eddie just don’t pay attention to him.” So I mind my own business on the jump. He just stands next to me and he leans over and he looks at and he said “Do you honestly think you gonna guard me?” I just didn’t say nothing.
“Then he stands up and he looks over at our bench and he looks at Kyle. “You all think this rookie gonna guard me? Man, I’m gonna bust you up!” Just right in my ear. By that time all the guys on the floor are cracking up, even my teammates. I am just like, ‘Will this official please throw this ball up.”
Johnson finished with six points on 2-of-9 shooting in 16 minutes played. Meanwhile, Bird lit up the rookie swingman and the Kings for 30 points in the 115-100 win. The experience left a strong impression on the first-year guard, which provided fuel to the fire for their next matchup.
Larry Bird, left bloodied by Eddie Johnson, wanted to exact revenge with a fight in his hotel room
The first meeting against Bird set the stage for what would transpire the next time the two faced off.
Johnson was prepared to dish it out against the Celtics star forward the second time around. The Kings guard found his opening to stick it to Bird as he left his mouth bloody after a hard foul.
“That stuck with me. Later on that year I had it rolling. I was playing better,” Johnson said. “He comes to Kansas City, starts on me again. So that time I am going at him. One time, I said, ‘I am going to get him. I am so tired of his mouth.’ So I drive and give him the upfake and he goes for it. I come up and I catch him right in the mouth [with my elbow] and I laid it in for an And-1. I’m at the free-throw line and he says to me, ‘That’s all you can do is score. You can’t defend anybody.’
“I said, ‘I can do one other thing though, I can make you bleed.’ His mouth was bleeding. He didn’t like that.’
Johnson continued by stating that Bird went into the Kings’ locker room after the game to find him. The former Celtics great found him and tossed him his hotel room key.
“He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his keys and tosses me his room key,” Johnson recounted. “He says, ‘Why don’t you come by the hotel so you and I can finish it alone and well will see who can make somebody bleed.’
“I started laughing and I said, ‘Yeah right. I would probably have your little b**** a** screaming and he said, ‘No let’s do.’ Then I said, ‘Mchale and Parrish around the corner ready to help you.’ When I said that he started laughing and he looked at me and said, ‘I like you’ and he left.”
Things could have easily escalated to the next level, as Bird was ready for a physical altercation. However, Johnson’s firm retorts and confidence garnered the Celtics star’s respect.
“After that, believe it or not, he never trash talked me,” Johnson said. “He brought out of me what I was holding in. Every time I saw him after that I thanked him.”
Larry Legend’s infamous trash-talk cemented his legacy
Although Bird’s illustrious career speaks for itself, it was his trash-talking that took his reputation to the next level.
The Celtics legend never backed down from an opportunity to engage in banter, and his ability to back up his confident words garnered more respect. That aspect alone has left a more memorable mark among his colleagues.
There are numerous stories of Bird’s infamous trash-talking, and Johnson’s anecdote is a shining example of the player the former Celtics great was.