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During the early ’80s, Larry Bird and Julius Erving sat at the center of an intense Eastern Conference rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. The two franchises engaged in several tension-filled on-court battles with NBA title contention hanging in the balance. Despite that, Bird shockingly revealed he never engaged in his infamous trash talk with the fellow Hall of Famer.

Larry Bird shared an intense rivalry with Julius Erving

Early in Bird’s career, he engaged in intense on-court battles with Erving that created many highly memorable moments.

In the early ’80s, the Celtics and 76ers competed as the top teams in the Eastern Conference vying for NBA title contention. Philadelphia faced Boston in three consecutive postseasons, getting the edge twice (1980 and 1982) before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals both times. 

Meanwhile, Bird led the Celtics to the 1981 NBA title over the Houston Rockets after topping the 76ers. The two teams faced off one last time in the 1985 conference finals, with Boston grabbing the edge in five games before falling to the Lakers in the Finals.

The frequent matchups led the divisional rivals to engage in a few on-court fights, most notably the physical altercations featuring Bird and Erving exchanging punches during a regular-season game in November 1984.

The incident only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough to underline the heated nature of the competition. Despite the fierce rivalry, Bird made a surprising reveal concerning his on-court interactions with Erving.

Larry Bird revealed Julius Erving was exempt from his infamous trash-talking

Celtics forward Larry Bird honors Philadelphia 76ers forward Julius Erving with a plaque in front of fans
Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird honors Philadelphia 76ers forward, Julius Erving. | Getty Images

Bird developed a notorious reputation for his infamous trash-talking.

Although there are numerous stories regarding his legendary banter, Bird revealed in his autobiography, Drive: The Story of My Life, that he never attempted to engage in back-and-forth on-court chatter with Erving. Bird said, according to the Basketball Network:

“Some people said, ‘You should just give him the outside shot.’ Well, when the good doctor was on the left side, he had a very good bank shot, and I was scared to death of that, so that wasn’t necessarily the answer either.

Julius Erving also was a much better defensive player than most people gave him credit for. We never spoke on the court. It was said I yelled things at him one night, but that was M.L. [Carr] talking trash from the bench, not me. Believe me; I never said a word to Dr. J on the court.”

The physical altercation between Bird and Erving certainly suggested otherwise. However, the Celtics great held tremendous respect for his opponent, anchored by his fear of guarding the former 76ers star.

Bird knew when to pick and choose to trash-talk opposing players, and Erving didn’t fall into that window. The Celtics great did engage in that banter with fellow Hall of Famers such as Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Bernard King.

Although it’s a bit of a shocker to hear Bird didn’t engage in trash talk with Erving, it doesn’t diminish the memorable rivalry.

The two competed at the highest level when the 76ers star was still playing at an elite level. The competition only brought the best out of each other, as it should for two of the game’s greatest talents.

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