While I greatly enjoyed discussing the 4-bit majesty of Larry Bird and Julius Irving playing One-on-One in 1983, I figured it was time to update the matchup, pitting them against each other in EA NBA Live 2006. As when I pitted Larry vs. Dirk, I made the computer play itself, thereby taking my obscene bias in favor of Larry Bird out of the equation.
As the Great White Hope and the Doctor squared off, I noticed a couple of things right off the bat:
Thing One: Even though Larry was known as one of the game's great trash talkers, Dr. J appeared to be doing most of the talking. The taunts were stereotypical urban lingo, despite the fact that the "Doctor" is a rather soft-spoken, eloquent fellow. It appears that this video game has decided that if there's a black dude involved, he's going to taunt early and often, and get all street on your ass.
Thing Two: While digital Larry is capable of the occasional high flying dunk (like he displayed against Dirk), there is very little wasted movement in his moves and shots -- a fairly accurate representation of his game. Digital J, on the other hand, has been issued the full compliment of...hmmm, how to put this delicately...ethnic flair. J pulled out to an immediate lead in the first game with a series of double-clutching, "take that cracker" moves that, honestly, seemed to have Larry intimidated.
"Hey Larry, after I kiss the rim and slam this home, I'll whipout my 10-inch schlong to make you feel completely inferior."
Honestly, it was a little like watching Rocky get his ass handed to him by Mr. T (no relation to Dr. J) in Rocky III. There they were, Larry Bird and Rocky Balboa, looking completely dumbfounded and overmatched by the toned, scary, hyperathletic black man. And besides, Larry was distracted by the death of his trainer, Mickey...or was that Rocky? I digress.
"Have you not noticed my superior muscle definition?
Just ask Jimmy the Greek. YOU CAN'T WIN, ROCK!"
A la Micheal Jordan in that spectacularly needless "up one side, around to the other" highlight move he made against the Lakers in the 1991 Finals, Julius made a potpourri of superifically unnecessary moves, like this "up-down-then-up-and-down-again-for-no-reason" move, which is essentially just a two-foot hook shot made to be far more difficult.Larry, I know he's a terrifying force and all,
And then there were plays where Larry looked like maybe he was just afraid. I'm telling you, he was just worried about Burgess Meredith, back there on the trainer's table, dying in Talia Shire's arms. And then there was Mr. T's mohawk to contend with. Seriously, who wouldn't be scared shitless...
but seriously, box out.
Despite Dr. J's all-out surge of showboating, Larry only lost by two.
Like Rocky, Larry gathered himself, took on Apollo Creed and that bald dude as trainers, went back to the hood, jumped rope, swam, worked on his foot speed, and learned all the lyrics to "Eye of the Tiger." Miraculously, he did all of this in the time it took me to click "Rematch" on my Gamecube.
Having already witnessed Dr. J's "look how amazing I am" show, Larry was no longer mystified or impressed. Like any great strategist, he adapted and overcame.
"Did I mention I can drain the two, homeslice?
Better tighten that D."
With a string of utterly boring, flairless jumpshots, Larry established a substantial lead in the second game.
"There you go. That D is better. But I'm automatic from here anyway.
Did I mention I'm Larry Fucking Bird?"
"Why you playing D down there?
Waiting for me to quadruple clutch this shot?"
"Pretty slam, J. Now you're only down 8-3."
"Guess what, J? My white boy dunk counts just as much as yours."
Larry's rebounding improved as well, resulting in a nice hanging slam. I guess Larry decided to give J a touch of his own medicine.
And suddenly J's fancified double-clutching and whatnot wasn't working so well.
The second game was more to my liking.
Now seeing how I've been equating this matchup to that of Rocky and Mr. T, I consider it my right decide that Larry's victory in game two is the equivalent of Rocky regaining the heavyweight title, thereby negating the need for a third game.
I would also submit that if I were playing basketball against a superior physical specimen and managed to pull out a win, I would choose to do what many of us lowly white boys would do in the same situation: take my ball, say that I have to get home for dinner, and get the hell out of the court, because everyone likes to walk off a winner (except Michael Jordan, apparently, who returned to basketball only to fail spectacularly).
For those unhappy with this decision, I will say that by points total, Larry was victorious, 20 to 16. Lame? Maybe. But at the end of Rocky III, did anyone really think Mr. T could make a comeback? No, me neither. Now you'e probably going to counter with "At the end of game one, did anyone really think Larry would make a comeback?" Well to you, I say "Shut up, crybaby." I'm taking my ball, and going home.