Larry Bird Tried to Put Charles Barkley In His Place With the Dream Team Before Michael Jordan Shut Him Up
If you’re an NBA fan, it’s hard to imagine anything more thrilling than hanging out with the Dream Team. Not only did that squad change the course of modern basketball history, but every member of the group is a legend in their own right. Imagine, for example, being a fly on the wall as the likes of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley talked shop. Sounds like a dream, right?
Well, thanks to Ahmad Rashad, we can get a glimpse being the scenes. As the story goes, the Dream Team was collectively arguing about everyone’s one-on-one credentials, but Larry Bird forbade some of his peers from entering the conversation. Eventually, though, even Larry Legend had to take a back seat; Michael Jordan had arrived and started flexing his metaphorical muscles.
Sound unbelievable? Let’s travel back in time and check it out.
Larry Bird thought he had basketball chops until His Airness entered the fray
At the risk of evoking a cliche, professional athletes need to have the utmost confidence in their abilities. With that being said, though, some players will always overpower others. That is apparently what happened when the Dream Team was collectively debating their own internal hierarchy.
“There was an interesting thing that happened that I was privy to—this was during the Dream Team [at the 1992 Olympics],” Ahmad Rashad explained during a 2020 GQ interview. “A bunch of guys were sitting on a pool table, and Michael and Magic got into a conversation about who was the best and playing one-on-one and all that stuff, arguing back and forth.”
As you might expect, the rest of the crew tried to enter the fray and assert their own place in basketball history. Larry Bird, however, wouldn’t let two specific players past the metaphorical velvet rope.
Charles Barkley was in the room, and he tried to speak up, and Larry Bird wouldn’t let him talk because he had never won a championship. Patrick Ewing was in the room, too, and he tried to talk. [Bird] wouldn’t let Patrick talk either.Ahmad Rashad in GQ
While that might set Bird up as the ruler of the roost — this was in 1992, meaning he was finishing his career, and Michael Jordan had yet to build up his full resume — the Boston Celtic didn’t stand a chance. His Airness was there, and no one was going to surpass him.
“So the argument came down to Michael telling each one of those guys that it’s a new day: ‘I’m here now, and if you don’t quit when I show up at your building next time, I’m kicking ass. So you can quit now, or you can take this ass-kicking that I’m giving you when I come around,'” Rashad continued.
And while that might seem harsh, Larry Legend knew when he had been beaten.
“Magic, I guess we got to be quiet,” Rashad quoted Bird as saying. “We were then, and he’s now.”
Beyond the sheer spectacle of the conversation — imagine witnessing Sir Charles’ reaction, for example, when Bird deadpanned that he couldn’t talk — the interaction does give a fascinating, albeit small, glimpse into the way the personalities meshed on the Dream Team.
Larry Legend and, to a lesser extent, Magic Johnson were there as elder statesmen; they had plenty of authority but also knew that it wasn’t entirely their show anymore. Michael Jordan, on the other hand, was Michael Jordan. He may have still been in his ascendency, but he had no problem asserting his dominance and daring anyone to challenge him.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall with the squad. Who knows how many other gems you would have witnessed?