An Opposing Defender Once Compared Larry Bird to a Literal Force of Nature: ‘Trying to Stop Larry Bird Is Like Trying to Stop the Wind’

No basketball player is literally unstoppable. But Boston Celtics‘ legend Larry Bird was about as close as you could get.

So close, apparently, that he was once compared to the wind. As in if you tried to guard the wind and stop it from getting past you. Which is literally impossible.

Obviously, Larry Bird wasn’t the wind. But for at least one defender who had to try and lock him up during the early ’80s, he may as well have been.

Larry Bird was an offensive juggernaut for the Boston Celtics from day one

Larry Legend walked into the NBA in 1979 and immediately averaged a double-double. He scored 21.3 points a night and added 10.4 rebounds to go along with 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals as a rookie.

He shot 47.4% from the floor on nearly 18 attempts a night.

Fast-forward to the 1983 playoffs and Bird had averages of 21.8 points and 10.7 rebounds across four regular seasons.

He had already led the Celtics to two Eastern Conference Finals and an NBA championship.

Then poor journeyman Tom McMillen had the unfortunate task of helping defend Larry in the first of two consecutive postseasons, and it didn’t go well for the Hawks — and then Bullets — center.

Atlanta’s Tom McMillen once compared Larry to a force of nature

Boston Celtics' great Larry Bird was once described as a force of nature by a former NBA guard.
Driving for the basket, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics puts a shoulder into the Chicago Bulls’ David Greenwood.

It’s easy to see why McMillen, who was actually the ninth overall pick in the 1974 draft, would make this comparison.

As a member of the Hawks in 1983, McMillen averaged 13 minutes and 3.3 points per game in a 2-1 series loss to Boston in the East playoffs’ opening round.

Bird, meanwhile, averaged 20.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists in 40 minutes a night.

Then in the ’84 postseason, McMillen got lucky enough to face Boston and Bird again in the first round, this time as a member of the Washington Bullets.

Tom averaged 2.3 points that series. He nearly had more fouls per game than points.

In that same series, Bird averaged 22.5 points over four games (he didn’t average 10 rebounds, though, so maybe McMillen kept him off the boards a few times).

Per, Tom said simply:

Trying to stop Larry Bird is like trying to stop the wind

Tom McMillen on guarding Larry Bird in the early 1980s

Water, Earth, fire, and the Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird.

A similar comparison could be made to a handful of today’s NBA stars

It seems fair to assume that McMillen would have some trouble staying in front of Ja Morant. Even at 6-11, he probably would have struggled against Chris Paul‘s crossover and mid-range fadeaway.

If Bird’s size and skill were an issue, Kevin Durant might pose a problem.

If guarding Larry was like stopping the wind, what would defending Giannis Antetokounmpo be? Trying to hold two techtonic plates together during an earthquake?

Maybe that’s what makes this all so crazy. Larry Bird in 1983 was as difficult to defend as Ja Morant, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are in 2022.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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