Skip to main content

Michael Jordan wasn’t quite Michael Jordan at the time, but his Chicago Bulls still managed to embarrass Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics on Dec. 22, 1984. Jordan scored 32 points, and the Bulls handed the Celtics their worst loss of the season, 110-85. When it was over, the Bulls bragged, and Bird, who finished with 10 points, never forgot.

Michael Jordan outshined Larry Bird in their second NBA game against each other

Boston Celtics player Danny Ainge, top, and Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan, bottom right, fall, during a game in the first round of the Eastern Conferences playoffs at the Boston Garden in Boston on April 17, 1986. | Bill Brett/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Bird was in the prime of his career on Dec. 22, 1984, while Jordan was a newcomer in his rookie season. The Celtics were coming off their second title of the decade, and Bird was in the midst of a stretch of three straight MVP seasons. Earlier in the year, the Celtics crushed the Bulls in Chicago, winning 125-105.

Boston entered the second meeting of the season against the Bulls with a 23-4 mark. The Bulls were14-14.

Jordan and the Bulls dominated from the get-go. They held a 52-37 lead at the half and led 84-58 after three quarters. Jordan made 12 of 18 shots and had 32 points in 35 minutes. He added 12 rebounds and eight assists.

Meanwhile, Bird had a dreadful performance. He had 10 points in 32 minutes. He misfired on 11 of his 14 shots from the floor.

Larry Bird and the Celtics sent Michael Jordan and the Bulls a clear message

When the Celtics and Bulls met for the third time, this time in Boston, things were a bit different. Bird and the Celtics remembered getting humiliated and also remembered the Bulls gloating after their December win. Although the game was close, Bird took charge down the stretch in a 111-108 win. After the game, he recalled the previous outing.

“They can’t say things now without going out and proving it,” Bird said, according to United Press International, after scoring 28 points, including six down the stretch to seal the deal.

Bird was determined to help pull this one out. He blocked two reverse layups by Jordan in the waning minutes. Then he stole one of his passes.

Jordan knew his team may have poked the bear in their previous meeting but said the Bulls weren’t intimidated.

“We don’t have the right to create bad blood with the world champs,” said Jordan after the game. “We’re a young team trying to get where they are. We had our chances, but we weren’t intimidated.”

“They have a cockiness as a team, not as individuals, and that will help them,” said Celtics coach K.C. Jones of the Bulls.

Bird and the Celtics went on to reach the NBA Finals


Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird ’91 Christmas Showdown Was Hardly a Gift for NBA Fans

The Celtics and Bulls both qualified for the postseason that year but had significantly different outcomes.

Boston finished the season 63-19 and cruised past the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, and Philadelphia 76ers to meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals for the second straight season.

The Lakers knocked off the Celtics in six games.

The Bulls finished 38-44 but managed to make their way into the playoffs. They were beaten 3-1 in the opening round by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Both Bird and Jordan achieved significant end-of-the-year honors.

Jordan was named Rookie of the Year, while Bird claimed the MVP.