Larry Bird was a Hall of Fame basketball player, but even he got into the occasional verbal dustup during his career. It was during a 1988 warm-up game that put the future Hall of Famer in the hot seat.
In the early 1980s, Larry Bird was trying to win an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics, but the team was being overshadowed by another Indiana team. Bird had suffered through a few losing seasons in the years before, and he was determined to get things back on track.When you think of the NBA, you probably think of Michael Jordan. However, during his time on the floor, Larry Bird was able to defend well against his opponents. These verbal attacks were not even limited to the NBA, as Rodney Rogers can attest.
Leading up to the 1992 Olympics, the Dream Team played a warm-up game against a group of college players. Even though the NCAA stars won, they didn’t get away with it. After the win, Rodgers had a chat with the young players, which prompted Bird to put the young striker in his place.
The Dream Team played a famous game against the stars of the university before going to the 1992 Olympics
In Barcelona, the Dream Team won every race with incredible ease and took home the gold medal. But still on American soil, NBA stars have taken on seemingly weaker opponents.
According to the New York Times blog, the Dream Team was facing a team made up of the best college basketball players at the time, including Chris Webber, Grant Hill, Rodney Rogers and Penny Hardaway. One would expect elite NBA players to perform better than their college counterparts, but that is not the case. The NCAA athletes won their first battle.
Those young guys kicked our asses, Scotty Pippen remembers. We didn’t know how to play with each other.
It’s also possible that the Dream Team made some other mistake. Mike Krzyzewski, who was one of the team’s assistants, said head coach Chuck Daly wanted the NBA stars to experience an early loss.
He started the game, Coach K said. If you look at how much Jordan played and how [Daly] changed players without getting together, without making adjustments; he knew what he was doing.
Celtics star Larry Bird watches the action before an NBA game. | Tom Berg/WireImage
Whether Daly pitched or not, the NCAA team’s victory obviously created a lot of excitement among the college stars. After that fight, Wake Forest attacker Rodney Rogers even got into a fight.
We sit there and go back to the hotel, Jamal Mashburn said during an appearance on the podcast Knuckleheads . Rodney Rogers says something, it’s his band. It’s Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and they’re all shooting. And Rodney Rogers said: Hey, Larry, you haven’t hit a jumper since 1984.
Needless to say, Byrd did not appreciate the comment. When the Dream Team and the NCAA team faced off, he was ready to teach his younger counterpart a lesson.
The next day we went in, and I’d never seen anything like it, and then I thought: It’s a different kind, Mashburn continued. Magic Johnson probably threw the ball eight times in a row to Larry Bird on the field. Larry Bird got the ball from Rodney Rogers, and every time he was about to make a play, he told him what he was going to do. Dribble once, pull up, move left. Turn off the glass. Ladle. A dribble to the right, a turn, a shot. Ladle. He scored nine or eight times in a row.
It still wasn’t enough for Larry Legend. As he left the field, he also had a few parting words for Rodgers.
A young guy, Bird said according to Mashburn. Sounds like 1984, doesn’t it?
Although the two men only met during a scrimmage, Byrd still taught Rodney Rogers an important lesson about talking with his head: Don’t piss off the opposing star if you’re not willing to burn yourself on the field. But that wasn’t Larry Legend’s only flex during his time with the Dream Team.
During the legendary teams’ joint game, Brian McIntyre, vice president of public affairs for the NBA, was given the task of asking a number of stars to sign their autographs on a basketball. Although it was a routine obligation – show up, sign papers and move on – Byrd took the opportunity to test his mettle.
I had about eighty basketballs in my room in Barcelona, and I had to convince the players to sign them all. Byrd was the last, and he asked: Who did it the fastest? recalls McIntyre in an oral history of the Dream Team published in GQ magazine. I said: Between 8 and 20 minutes. And Vogel said: I’ll be the fastest. It’s time for me.
Larry Legend did it. He signed all the autographs in less than five minutes.
He drew them and threw the last one at me, McIntyre continued. Okay, what is it? Wow, four and a half minutes! And he said: Yes! The game to the end.
Even at the end of his career, Larry Bird never let anyone – whether it was Rodney Rodgers or a stack of 80 basketballs – get in his way.
COMPARED TO: Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were teammates for their famousrivalry.