As an Indiana native, Larry Bird was a born Colts fan, despite his time with the Boston Celtics. Eventually, Bird flipped allegiances and went on to claim he would never again root for any non-Boston teams.
One of the most significant sports controversies of the last decade involved the New England Patriots, one of Larry’s adopted Boston franchises. Dubbed “deflategate,” the essence of the ridiculously-named scandal was that Tom Brady and the Patriots were using semi-deflated footballs to their advantage.
During that period, New England and Indy had a heated rivalry as Brady and Peyton Manning dueled for trips to Super Bowls.
But Bird, even with his Indiana roots, admitted he knew which team was better, deflated football or not. He knew The GOAT was going to beat the Colt(s).
Deflategate became an 18-month NFL saga
Imagine the Ben Simmons drama in the NBA, but if it continued for another 12 months.
Truth be told, that’s actually not out of the realm of possibility. But a different subject for a different day (or many, many days).
A story on NBC Sports ran through a timeline of deflategate. The spark notes are as follows:
- A Colts defender noticed New England’s footballs felt different after picking off Brady twice in a regular-season game on Nov. 16, 2014
- A day before that year’s AFC Championship Game between Indy and the Patriots, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson emailed the NFL with concerns about ball pressure in New England
- During that game, Indianapolis reported the balls felt similar to those of the teams’ regular-season matchup and officially alerted the league
- 11 of 12 Patriots game balls in the AFC title game were deemed to be “significantly below” the psi legal minimum, according to NFL rules
- New England went full deny, deny, deny and then won the Super Bowl two weeks later
- A bunch of weird stuff happened (like the demolition of a cell phone that contained years worth of “evidence”) and eventually Brady was suspended for the first four games of the following season
At the time, Bird was an executive with the Indiana Pacers. He was asked about the deflated balls after New England beat the Colts in that AFC Championship game — before the offseason drama, cell phone destruction, and suspension.
At the risk of oversimplifying again, Larry basically said, “Who cares.”
Despite being an Indy native, Larry Bird’s time with the Boston Celtics taught him plenty about Tom Brady and the Patriots
The Hick From French Lick worked for the Pacers at what is now called Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Colts’ facility, Lucas Oil Stadium, is less than a mile away, according to Google Maps.
So even if he wasn’t paying close attention, Bird was aware of the game between Manning and Brady and the hubbub surrounding the deflated footballs.
In an interview with The Boston Globe, The Legend was asked about the situation and didn’t sugarcoat his answer.
It doesn’t really matter. It was written about a lot around the country, but here in Indianapolis, most people knew. We knew the Patriots was going to beat them anyway. I thought it was pretty chintzy. People finally realized they would have beat us anyway. I just laughed about it.
They got the footballs they played with and we got our footballs. And their footballs beat our footballs.Larry Bird on the Colts-Patriots AFC Championship Game and Deflategate
Bird’s generalization sounds better.
Bird’s predictions about the game — and about Brady — were spot on
Yes, Tom Brady and the Patriots crushed the Colts in that title game to the tune of 45-7, and head coach Bill Belichick and Tom Terrific went on to win their fourth Super Bowl.
By the time it was all over (is it all over?) Brady won seven championships.
That’s more than twice as many as Bird won during his NBA career. And, as the evidence clearly states, Larry knew how great Brady was.
Legend Recognize Legend.