Larry Bird, The King of Trash Talk
Sticks and stones…
“Merry f — king Christmas!”
No, that’s not a movie quote. Actually, it might be, but that’s beside the point.
That quote is just one of the few that NBA legend Larry Bird is notorious for. It was his response to a benched Chuck Person after firing a three from the sidelines. Bird never held back on his opponents, and a quick search on Google will bring up stacks of stories about the best trash talker in NBA history. So to condense this information for you, I’ll round up some of the most notable in this one article.
“So, who’s coming in second?”
After his trash talk, Larry Legend is probably most well-known for his laser accuracy from three-point range. His career 3P% of 37.6% with over 1,700 shots taken doesn't even do his ability justice, since the stories and highlights all seem to hint that if he wanted to, he could have done even more on the court.
Of course, Bird’s three-point ability landed him in the three-point contest, which he won three years in a row. The only other player to do this is Craig Hodges (we’ll come onto him later), a player who holds the joint record for the most number of times leading the league in 3P%.
Having snagged two contest titles in a row, 1998’s contest saw a Larry Bird that was more confident than ever, and he let this confidence shine through with his trash talk. He reportedly looked around the locker room, surrounded by players including Mark Price and Danny Ainge, before coolly dropping the line:
“So, who’s coming in second?”
Of course, Larry Bird backed up this trash talk, and he defended his back-to-back three-point title once again, all while shooting in his warmup jersey.
“Rook, I am the best f — king shooter in this league.”
Very few players have had the balls to challenge Larry Bird. That said, the very few players that did often got a scathing comeback from Bird, who did not hold back, no matter who he was talking to.
Reggie Miller knows best about this.
We [had] about 20 seconds left, and we fouled Bird. We were down by three points, Bird went to the line to shoot two. I was standing on the line and being a rookie dumbass, not realizing that this was one of the best free-throw shooters to ever play the game. I tried to throw off his timing… I said out of the side of my mouth, “Hey, hey.” He stopped right before he shot, looked at me and said, “You gotta be kidding me. Rook, you gotta be kidding me.” … Bird got the ball again, and before he shot, he said, “Rook, I’m the best f — king shooter in the league right now, in the league, understand? And you’re up here tryna say something?”
Larry Bird dropped those two free-throw shots, and the Celtics ended up beating the Pacers by 6. Ironically, Larry Bird, later on, became Pacers coach, handling none other than Reggie Miller. Two great trash-talkers that once bumped heads began to see eye-to-eye on the court.
“I’m going to play this one left-handed.”
Imagine being the player that was 40-pieced by Larry Bird. That may seem common, but now imagine being the player that was 40-pieced by Larry Bird who was playing left-handed. That’s right, Bird did that once, as Bill Walton once recalled:
At the end of one of the trips, he had accomplished every goal. We hadn’t lost a game on the trip and Larry told all of us players and the media too — we were all standing around waiting to leave — he said, “Tomorrow night’s the last game of the trip, I’m going to play this one left-handed, at least through three quarters”.
Jerome Kersey faced the brunt of this stone-cold confidence in the Celtics’ next game vs. the Trail Blazers. The Valentine’s Day matchup saw Larry Legend put up a 47-point triple-double, and he dropped 20 of those with his left hand.
Why did he do it? To flex, of course, or as he savagely put it after the game:
“I’m saving my right hand for the Lakers.”
“Hurry up before they notice nobody is guarding me!”
Nobody in the league was safe from Bird’s trash talk. Not even Dennis Rodman, one of the greatest defenders of all-time, would get away without a taunt from Larry Legend. Starting off early in his career as a Piston, Dennis was tasked with guarding the Celtic forward, and Bird took him to school, humiliating him with both his game and his words.
Bird dropped four straight buckets over Rodman, and being the embodiment of swagger he was, walked over to Detroit coach Chuck Daly and yelled:
Who’s guarding me, Chuck? Is anyone guarding me? You better get someone on me or I’m gonna go for 60.
Some credit should go to Rodman — hearing this fuelled the fire, and he began to defend Larry even harder, but the trash talk just wouldn’t stop.
I would be all over him, trying to deny him the ball, and all Larry was doing was yelling at his teammates, ‘I’m open! Hurry up before they notice nobody is guarding me!’
Larry doubled down on this trash talk by drilling yet another jumper over Dennis, returning to Chuck and pouring salt into the wound with the words:
Coach, you better get this guy out and send in somebody who’s going to D me up because it’s too easy when I’m wide open like this.
“He knows where to find me.”
The 1990 three-point contest might be one of the weirdest the NBA has seen. Not only because Larry Bird wasn’t in it, but Michael Jordan’s performance in it was historically terrible. Either way, the contest ended with Craig Hodges squeezing past Reggie Miller 19–18, and he had some words for the absent Bird.
A reporter asked Hodges whether he felt his three-point title had an asterisk due to Larry not participating, and riding on a high, Craig replied, “He knows where to find me.”
One of the most important elements of trash-talking is firing back when disrespected. Bird did this with style. When told about Hodge’s response to the reporter’s question, he put the winner in his place with the reply:
Yeah, at the end of the Bulls’ bench.
Larry Bird was as good at trash-talking as he was at basketball. Countless stories recount his ruthlessness on the court, both by word and by skill, as he tore through his opponent’s mental game throughout the 82-game regular season. Without a doubt, Larry Bird is the best trash talker of all-time.