Michael Jordan Was Already the GOAT to Larry Bird When He Retired for the 1st Time: ‘No One Was Ever Better Than Him’
When Michael Jordan retired from the NBA in 1993, he was a three-time champion, three-time Finals MVP, and three-time regular-season MVP. The Chicago Bulls superstar accomplished all of those feats in nine years and left the league on top.
The GOAT debate between Jordan and LeBron James has grown even louder after the latter won his fourth title and fourth Finals MVP in 2020. However, it’s safe to assume that Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird is still going with MJ since he thought Superman was the GOAT back in 1993.
Larry Bird on Michael Jordan: No one was ever better than him
Bird, who retired following the 1991-92 season, was sad when he found out Jordan was leaving the NBA in 1993. The 12-time All-Star stated that His Airness was the best player he’d ever seen.
“I am very sad to hear the news,” Bird said in 1993, via Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein. “No one was ever better than him.”
Bird had a 17-11 record against Jordan during his career. The Celtics star averaged 26.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 6.4 assists versus Black Jesus and swept him twice in the playoffs.
However, Bird was in awe of what Jordan achieved during his first nine years. We may never see another player accomplish what Jordan did in nine seasons again.
Michael Jordan’s first nine years were remarkable
After nine years in the NBA, Jordan retired in 1993 with three championships, three Finals MVPs, three regular-season MVPs, one All-Star Game MVP, two Slam Dunk titles, three steals titles, nine All-Star selections, seven first-team All-NBA selections, six first-team All-Defensive selections, one Defensive Player of the Year Award, seven scoring titles and two gold medals.
From 1984-85 to 1992-93, Jordan averaged 32.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.7 steals in 667 regular-season games while shooting 51.6% from the field. Bird, who won three rings, two Finals MVPs, and three regular-season MVPs, believed Jordan’s peak was unmatched and that the Bulls guard was in a class of his own.
It wasn’t just what Jordan did in the regular season that made him special. It’s what he did in the playoffs and Finals that took his status to another level.
MJ turned it up a notch in the playoffs and Finals
Not only is Jordan first in NBA history in points per game and player efficiency rating in the regular season, but he also holds those records in the playoffs as well. The 10-time scoring champion averaged 30.1 points in the regular season and 33.4 in the playoffs. Meanwhile, he had a PER of 27.9 in the regular season and 28.6 in the postseason.
In 35 Finals games, Jordan averaged 33.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. He’s second all-time in Finals points per game, trailing only the great Jerry West (36.3). The Bulls won six championships in the ’90s and never lost in the Finals.
Both Jordan and Bird are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. They won the 1992 gold medal together on the Dream Team and will likely be linked forever as two of the most iconic basketball players ever to step foot in the NBA.