Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing Shocked Dream Team By Becoming Close Friends and Earning a Joint Nickname
Larry Bird vs. Patrick Ewing was a fierce Eastern Conference matchup in the late 1980s, and early 1990s as the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks battled for supremacy. And while the Midwestern sharpshooter and the Jamaican-born big man seemed like incredibly different people, they actually bonded and became good friends on the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. In fact, they became so close during this time they even got the nickname “Harry and Larry.”
‘The Hick From French Lick’ and the ‘Hoya Destroya’ bonded on the Dream Team
Patrick Ewing was born in Jamaica but moved to the United States at 13. More specifically, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the Boston area.
Despite living smack-dab in the middle of Celtics country, Ewing once told Dan Patrick on The Dan Patrick Show that he was a Philadelphia 76ers fan and “hated the Celtics growing up.” And once the two got in the NBA together, they would trash-talk relentlessly during their matchups.
However, when the two all-time greats got on the 1992 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team, aka the Dream Team, they quickly bonded.
Longtime NBA insider Jackie MacMullan shared on her Icons Club podcast that Ewing didn’t golf like many of his Dream Team teammates, and Bird couldn’t play golf because of his bad back. That led to the two hanging out together during the squad’s downtime. There was another reason the two bonded.
“Both Bird and Ewing had their sons with them. Each exhibited a softer side the other had never seen. The two men exchanged fierce trash-talking darts when the Celtics and Knicks squared off. But that enmity melted away in Barcelona,” MacMullan shared on her podcast. “They were soon named ‘Harry and Larry,’ bosom buddies, shocking the hell out of their teammates.”
And those teammates can’t help but chuckle to this day about how Bird and Ewing became close pals.
The Dream Team got a kick out of ‘Harry and Larry’
The Dream Teamers all remember being shocked at “Harry and Larry,” but to this day, Patrick Ewing and Larry Bird won’t share where the “Harry” part of the nickname came from.
In 2008, the two talked to Nick Friedell, then of Yahoo! Sports, about “The Harry and Larry Show.” But when the reporter asked about the origins of Harry, Friedell wrote, “It sounds like there is an inside-joke between the two men, but neither wanted to divulge how the name came to be. Bird said he didn’t give his new buddy the moniker, but a smiling Ewing must have known otherwise. ‘I think it came from him,” Ewing said. ‘I think he’s lying.'”
“Harry and Larry” still bring a smile to other Dream Teamers’ faces as well.
“I thought they were two opposites, and yet they were so much alike. And the whole time, they were inseparable,” Michael Jordan chuckled in Icons Club. “And I thought it was pretty unique that those types of bonds evolved.”
Clyde Drexler enjoyed the relationship as well.
“It was hysterical, really. It really was. We used to make fun of them on the bus. But they got along. They got to be good friends,” Drexler shared. “Can you believe that? Never would have thought that would be possible.”
Despite the differences in age, upbringing, and appearance between Bird and Ewing, the biggest reason their friendship shocked the Dream Team might have been their fierce battles when the Knicks and Celtics hooked up.
Larry Bird vs. Patrick Ewing
Patrick Ewing was the No. 1 pick of the 1985 NBA Draft, and Larry Bird retired after the 1991-92 season. So, for seven seasons, Ewing’s Knicks and Bird’s Celtics battled for Eastern Conference supremacy.
The two teams only met twice in the playoffs, though, as the Knicks were on the rise while the Celtics — thanks to Bird’s failing back — were in decline. In 1988, Ewing’s first playoff appearance, Boston sent New York home in the first round in a 3-1 series. However, in 1990, the Kicks returned the favor and beat Boston in Round 1, 3-2.
Overall, Bird’s Celtics dominated Ewing’s Knicks for the three-quarters of a decade they went head-to-head. Larry had a 22-8 record vs. “Harry” in those matchups. However, both players played well in those battles. Here’s what the two averaged in those 30 games:
These two NBA greats had a fierce rivalry but became close friends on the Dream Team, which is one of the many incredible stories that came from the best basketball team ever assembled.