The following clip shows the highlights from a classic shootout between Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. It took place on April 21, 1988 at the Boston Garden. Bird had 44 points (on 19-for-29 shooting) and 10 rebounds, Jordan had 39 (17-for-33) and 8 assists, and the Celtics beat the Bulls 126-119.

You know, a lot of people have forgotten -- or maybe never really knew -- just how good Larry Bird was back in the day. I think these same people assume that Bird, while generally a better rebounder and passer, couldn't keep up with Jordan in the scoring department. Wrong. Unlike Jordan, Bird didn't care about winning the scoring title. And, with teamates like Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, he didn't have to.

Make no mistake, though: Bird could put the ball in the hoop. Casual fans only remember the Larry Bird of the early 90s. By that time, his back was injured so badly he was practically a cripple (and, indeed, he spent time in traction between games during the 1991 playoffs). Of course, he still averaged 20/9/7 a game during his final two seasons, which is pretty impressive considering that -- as M.L. Carr put it in Unfinished Business -- he was playing without a back.

But it's interesting to look back at the Bird/Jordan duels of the 1986-87 and 1987-88 campaigns. Those were Bird's last two healthy years, and they were also the seasons that Jordan was at his most statistically dominant (37/5/4 in '87 and 35/5/5 in '88).

In 1986-87, Bird averaged 34 PPG (on 56 percent shooting) against the Bulls; Jordan averaged 29 PPG (on 42 percent shooting) against the Celtics. Bird outscored Jordan in four out of six games, and two of those times it wasn't even close: On March 27, 1987 Bird hit for 41 (17-29) compared to Jordan's 22 (9-23); on April 17, 1987 Bird netted 38 (17-29 again) and Jordan had only 17 (5-15).

In 1987-88, Bird averaged 34 PPG (on 59 percent shooting) against the Bulls (although he missed two of the games due to injury), while Jordan scorched the Celtics for 39 PPG (on 55 percent shooting), including one 50-point outburst. Bird outscored Jordan twice in the games they played against each other: 33 (14-21) to 26 (10-18) and 44 to 39 (as noted above). They had another great shootout on January 12, 1988: Jordan won the scoring war 42 (19-35) to 38 (18-31), but the Celtics won the game 104-97, despite the fact that they had to start Dirk Minniefield (who??) in place of the injured Dennis Johnson.

The point (no pun intended) of all this should be clear: When healthy, Bird could score with Jordan whenever he was inclined to do so. While many people just matter-of-factly declare Jordan as the GOAT, everyone should be aware that Larry Bird, healthy and in his prime, was as good as Jordan...even better in some areas (such as rebounding and passing). Although, admittedly, he was never as good of an individual defender as Jordan, but he wasn't quite as bad as everyone seems to think (again, most fans only remember the nearly immobile Bird from the end of his career).

For the record: The Celtics were 6-0 against the Bulls in 1986-87, and they were 3-3 against them in 1987-88. Of course, Bird missed two of the games in 87-88 (and Kevin McHale also missed one of those games); the C's were 3-1 with Bird in the lineup and 0-2 without him. Jordan finished second (to Magic Johnson) in MVP voting in 1987, while Bird finished third. Jordan won it (somewhat dubiously) in 1988, and Bird finished second.

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Anonymous Josh said...
As if any more proof was needed about how much of an awesome battle the Celtics vs. Bulls games of the 80's were. :)

Blogger Chris said...
^^the highlights were awesome, but the Celts almost always won. And though I'd agree that Bird was a great scorer, much more than just the jumpshooter some remember him as, he wasn't really facing what Jordan faced as far a defenses and lack of teammate support. In that video it looks like Bird had Brad Sellers on him.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
I dunno about the defense Jordan was facing. Dennis Johnson was guarding him most of the game, and while Dennis certainly was a great defensive guard in his younger days, by '88 he'd lost a step...or more. He had neither the size nor foot speed to check Jordan. He just had to put his hands up and hope Jordan missed.

As for Bird, it looked like they were using a combination of Oakley, Sellers and Pippen on him, plus they were collapsing. Sellers was meh, but Oak and Pippen (even at that stage of his career) were solid.

Anonymous Humility Is Good For Ya said...
Hey Basketbawful,

I stumbled upon this blog and had read a bit of it. I somehow can't get enough of the hate, and you seem to be versed in the domain of b-ball.

Most things I've read here I concur, but this whole waxing Bird thing is just getting out of hand. He was one of the greatest, though for a combination of reasons, his career had not the longevity nor the popularity of Jordan's.

I appreciate the rebounding, the passing along with the intangibles. (my long-time favorite player is Pippen, for picking up everyone's slack) It's that this post rings the argument of if he had stayed health, if his teammates didn't break, life, etc... type bitterness.

I've never been all up on Jordan, but the man is, in all likelihood, the next NBA logo when the switch occurs... It's more extraordinary, Larry's hickstache and achievements given his disposition in the NBA; however, Jordan's much better documented scorer. And man, outside of this country, Bird is NOT Jordan. (Misguided, but true)

The more athletic, in the end, is more spectacular to watch - after all, we're watching sports. Michael Jordan was a more sensational scorer, while Larry Bird was probably more creative with the ball in general outside of slamming... And for all that whiteboy genius, his overall score is somehow just a wee-bit short.

Regardless, Bird and Jordan were not MUCH better than each other, and factoring final achievment, Jordan has the edge in volume and consistency, add in scoring and league titles, mvps, Larry Bird was just as good as Jordan in scoring is a difficult sale. He could have, but did not... For whatever reason, one perform more and better at scoring than the other. And that would just have to be it.

Anonymous Jaz said...
You really need to put some highlights of the current Celtics team, just for Simmons.

Anonymous Bpb said...
I prefer watching Bird over Jordan. They were both great shooters in their prime, great clutch players, Jordan was more athletic and seemed to be better at scoring in bundles even when deferring, Larry was a better passer and rebounder. I'd pick Larry.

Then again, I have bias because of what Jordan did to the Jazz (probably my second favourite team both then and now) in the two NBA Finals.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"I dunno about the defense Jordan was facing. Dennis Johnson was guarding him most of the game, and while Dennis certainly was a great defensive guard in his younger days, by '88 he'd lost a step...or more. He had neither the size nor foot speed to check Jordan. He just had to put his hands up and hope Jordan missed."

What are you talking about? In the video, in nearly every one of Jordan's baskets, he ran into 2-3 other guys waiting in the paint.

Most of Bird's shots were fall-away jumpers. Granted, there'd be a man in his face, but a single defender v. an entire team - Jordan no doubt faced many more obstacles when scoring.

other way of looking at it, is that michael, in his fourth overall season (3rd, if you count out the one he spent with a broken leg), was just as dominant as the other two best players in the league.

Now i aint talking D-wade dominant, because his ability - though amazing, is nothing close to what went on these days.

the fact is that in 87', jordan could compete with the best of them. and then he got better... BTW, you slip out almost as if it wasnt important, that MJ was the better defensive player - well, IMO, that is the one thing that makes his so much better than Bird or Magic.

They could score - and he was just as good as them. they could pass - and he wasnt that far behind. they could elevate their game to hit big shots - well, you get the point.

but they were avrage defensive players at best most of the time, while jordan, in his prime, was one of the best defensive players in the league.

Anonymous padraig said...
bbawful-I'd agree that Jordan is a dubious, or at least very debateable, GOAT, but he is the greatest pure scorer of all time, without question. 10 scoring titles, highest career scoring average on 49.7% FG even including those awful Wizards seasons. And, not that it has anything to do with MJ/Bird, but this is also why I laugh when people call Kobe, a career 45% shooter averaging 6 less ppg, a "more complete offensive talent" or whatever.

Larry Bird kicked much ass and is underrated historically as a scorer and rebounder. I think people are well aware of Larry's passing prowess and shooting stroke, and it's not doing Legend a disservice to consider him merely an average defender-he was crafty (for example, letting his man by him and then blocking his shot from behind) but it wasn't enough to make up for his lack of foot speed and lateral quickness, even in his youth.

It's also unfair to denigrate MJ for failing to dominate the '88 Celtics. Pippen was a rookie and no one else on that Bulls team was a very capable scorer; per 40 MJ more than doubled the scoring average of the next highest dude (34.6 to Sedale Threatt's 17). No offense, but it's kind of lunacy to say the DJ was trying to shut Jordan down 1-on-1. Meanwhile, Larry had McHale, Ainge, DJ, an aging but still effective Parrish, etc. For kicks that team even had rookie Reggie Lewis and Artis Gilmore's last NBA season (and Brad Lohaus!!!) riding the bench.

There are only a handful of players I'd listen to in a debate for greatest ever other than Jordan (Magic, Kareem, maybe LeBron in 15 years depending on how his career turns out). Larry's just not one of them. That's not a disservice to him, as he's definitely top 20 all time and maybe top 10 depending on your opinion. Also, even if MJ didn't quite deserve that MVP, consider the one that Karl Malone stole from him in '97, an all-time MVP voting gaffe.

Blogger Basketbawful said...

1. It's hard to argue against Wilt Chamberlain as the best pure scorer of all time. When he was motivated to score, he scored beyond anything anyone has seen before or since. Wilt and Jordan are tied for highest career scoring average (30.1). Wilt may have won fewer scoring titles than Jordan, but that was only because he chose to stop scoring to concentrate on other areas (and he thought his record of scoring titles was safely out of reach; had he known someone would come along someday and break that record, he probably would have tried to keep winning them). People say Kobe is a better offensive player than Jordan because, skillwise (particularly from three-point range), Kobe is more diverse. But screw diversity. Who's better in terms of putting it in the hole more often and at a higher percentage? Jordan is superior to Kobe, and Wilt was superior to everybody.

2. I wasn't trying to denigrate Jordan for not dominating the '88 Celtics. But I thought the teams records against each other was interesting, and important to note, since most people tend to make assumptions about Jordan and the Celtics (and every other team, really). Also, I never said that D.J. was trying to shut Jordan down one-on-one, only that they used single coverage on Jordan (with D.J.) with collapsing help defense under the basket. That was a typical strategy for the 80's Celtics against everybody. And if you watch the video, you'll notice that Jordan only faced double-teams and collapsing defense when he took it to the hoop. And frankly, that happens to every player against every team. But Jordan took a lot of jumpers in that clip, and he was typically shooting over a stationary D.J. who had a hand up. It was the same with Bird in that clip. His jumpers were against single-coverage, and the times he drove to the hoop the Bulls defense collapsed.

K.C. Jones rarely played his bench, particularly during the '87 and '88 seasons. Lewis averaged 8.3 MPG in '88. Gilmore got 11.1 MPG, and Lohaus around 10. The greatest weakness of that '88 team was that the starters (particularly Parish and D.J.) were aging, yet were asked to play 38-40 MPG. They got worn out. They held 4th quarter leads in every game they lost against the Pistons in the '88 Eastern Conference Semis. The real reason the Pistons supplanted them that year was because K.C. Jones could never develop bency players. But anyway...

3. Bird is in the top 5 or 6 players all-time, no question. In fact, if he had retired or died before all his injuries, this wouldn't even be a question. In his first nine (i.e., healthy) seasons, the Celtics AVERAGED 60 wins per season. Bird was first-team All-NBA all nine years. He was either first or second in MVP voting 8 of those nine years, and third once. This means that for nine consecutive years -- a period that is widely considered the best and most competitive NBA era -- Bird was considered the first or second-best player 8 times, and the third best once. The other guys competing with him for "best player" status were Kareem, Dr. J., Magic, and, later, Jordan. Bird was considered The Best or better than those guys more than once. I could go on, but Bird's pre-injured record speaks for itself. The guy was one of the truly great players of all time. If you're putting him as a "maybe" in the top 10, or even top 20, I'd like to know who you're putting above him. Bird dominated the league during perhaps it's greatest stretch, and against legitimate rivals (which, for the record, Jordan never had to face).

4.Karl Malone didn't steal the MVP in '97. Malone's numbers were greater than Jordan in every category other than scoring (and that was only a few points down). His PER was higher than Jordan's. His team won 64 games, and it's easy to argue that the Jazz were inferior to the Bulls in terms of secondary talent (let me say this clearly: Greg Ostertag was starting).

Anonymous padraig said...
bbawful-oh, man. I should really let this go, but I'm patently uncapable of doing so. before I begin, let me be clear that you've probably been watching basketball longer than I have, the first season I really paid attention to being 92-93 when I was nine years old, and I have a ton of respect for what appears to be your vast bball knowledge.

1) I obviously didn't see any of it first-hand, but from what I understand for the majority of Wilt's career there wasn't anyone who could even approach him physically except Russell. That doesn't mean his feats aren't awe-inspiring, but it does mean I feel at least equally impressed by Jordan's somewhat lesser feats in his era. If you want to say Wilt is the best pure scorer ever, fine. I still think it's MJ, but maybe that's just b/c I saw him live.

2) I was totally kidding about Lewis, Gilmore and Lohaus coming off the bench. As far as DJ and the Celts' defense on MJ, fair enough. I misunderstood what you were saying.

3) I thought about this for a while. The guys I'd definitely list ahead of Bird are Wilt, Kareem, MJ, Magic and the Big O. Maybes are Shaq, Russell and Hakeem; I'd be tempted to include Barkley as a 'maybe' as well if it wasn't for the unfortunate 4 yrs in Houston. So, yeah, I guess top 20 is a little excessive. If pressed I'd put Bird as the best SF ever and in the 6-9 range all time.

4) Well, I went back and looked at stats. In '97 Jordan was just barely a better scorer (31.3/40 min to Malone's 30) and had a slightly better asst/to while the Mailman of course signicantly outrebounded him. Malone's PER was slightly better (28.9 to 27.8) but MJ held the edge in Win Shares, 52-49. So I guess it really could have gone either way, which isn't how I remembered it.

However, I'm not sure how MJ's '88 MVP was undeserved when he led the league that year in Win Shares, Player Wins and PER-he was signicantly ahead of Bird in all three. In addition to winning scoring title he also led the league in steals with over 3/40 min. He even had 1.6 blocks/40, doubling Bird's output in that category. MJ held a large scoring edge, Bird was a better rebounder and their Asst/TO ratios were similar with a slight edge for Larry. So MJ an indisputable winner but it's a real stretch to call that MVP "dubious".

Thanks for taking the time to generate such a thorough, well thought out response.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
padraig -- Please, never let anything go. As long as you refrain from calling me a doody head, I enjoy discussing these issues.

1. I've never really accepted the arguments against Wilt, mostly that no one could match him physically. I mean, first of all, who was Jordan's physical match, especially in his younger days? But besides that, don't forget that illegal defense didn't really exist in Wilt's day, meaning that he was often surrounded by two, three, even four players before he even received the ball. Furthermore, NBA players were allowed to be much more violent back then. In Wilt's rookie season, a guy named Willie purposely bashed Wilt in the face, breaking his nose and knocking out some of his teeth. It was so bad, Wilt ended up getting an infection and almost died on a plane a few days later. Guys were allowed to hold, grab, hit, clutch, and fight in a manner that isn't allowed today, and wasn't allowed in Jordan's day. And moreover, Wilt had to play against Russell and guys like Nate Thurmond, Willis Reed, Walt Bellamy, Wayne Enbry, and Wes Unseld. These guys were big, strong, All-Star caliber players. And since there were only 8 teams back when Wilt was in his prime, he had to face the best centers on a nightly basis. Imagine if Jordan had been forced to face Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler, Mitch Richmond, Reggie Lewis, etc. every night. When Jordan ruled, the league was weakened by expansion. He and his team got nights off, certainly more nights off than Wilt got.

2. I figured you were kidding, but I really believe those guys could have contributed more, and K.C. Jones failed as a coach by not integrating them into the mix. He was too obsessed with winning the home court advantage and he overworked his starters. Look at what Chuck Daily did with the Pistons. He integrated Dennis Rodman and John Salley, and brought in a veteran center (James Edwards) and it pushed the Pistons over the top.

3. I couldn't put Barkley above Bird because -- and this was his downfall -- he was not a clutch player. He couldn't seem to help his team win the close, most important games. That's why the Suns didn't win it all in '93 and '94. He also couldn't create easy shots for his teammates as well as Bird, although he was a very good passer, and a flat out amazing rebounder for his size (although he was an athletic freak, and that helped). Anyway, here's a video of some Bird buzzer's required viewing:

Russell was a great winner, no question, but he was surrounded by so many other great winners, and there were significant flaws in his game (shooting, freethrow shooting, a personal admission that he was afraid of and refused to take clutch shots)...he wasn't as complete a player as Bird. Shaq, though a completely unstoppable offensive force for a three-year stretch, also has holes in his game and a general lack of concern for conditioning. I love Hakeem, but his streak of dominance didn't last as long as Bird's. I wouldn't scream if you put Wilt, Kareem, Magic and M.J. above Bird. The Big O? While I don't question his skills, I question his ability to make his teammates better and perform in the clutch. I don't know; that's a tough call.

4. I've always felt like people don't fully appreciate everything Malone did for the Jazz. Jordan was the undisputed leader of the Bulls, their primary scorer, and they guy who took clutch shots. But the other duties were distruted among other players -- Pippen took care of the playmaking, Rodman the rebounding, and the Triangle took care of everything else. In Utah, the offense was run by Stockton, but it was run through Malone. But he also was the teams only real rebounder. He was also the tough guy and enforcer. He took a terrible beating every night. He always had to defend the best front court players; he sometimes even had to defend centers, like Shaq. Jordan didn't have those kinds of responsibilities. In the later stages of his career, Phil Jackson gave him the easier defensive assignments and let Ron Harper or Pippen cover the Reggie Millers of the league. I mean, in the '97 Finals Jordan was guarding Greg Foster, while Malone was being bear-hugged by Dennis Rodman. See, this is why you have to look past the numbers. PER and win shares are important, no question, but they only tell part of the story.

Part of the reason I said Jordan's '88 MVP was dubious, well, you would have had to have lived through it, like I did. There was a lot of sentiment around the league for Jordan that season. He was great -- there was no questioning that -- but it was felt by many (belive it or not) that he would never win an NBA title, either because of the deficiencies of his teammates or because he simply didn't know how to win. And Jordan himself was getting increasingly unhappy with the situation. He was openly hostile toward Magic Johnson and dismissive toward other greats like Bird and Isiah. He even suggested he might retire prematurely if things didn't turn around. Then it was like the league went on a "Save Mike" campaign. This culminated in him getting every conceivable aware: All-Star MVP, the Slam Dunk title, Defensive Player of the Year, MVP. The Slam Dunk title...well, look, Dominque was robbed, but the All-Star game took place in Chicago.

All that said, it is de facto tradition that MVP goes to the best player on one of the best two or three teams in the league. I did an entire post about this a few months ago, but there are only five times in NBA history in which the MVP didn't go to a player on one of the best teams, and '88 was one of those times. It just felt like a "Give it to Mike because he probably won't win a title" award. I know that sounds crazy now, but, like I said, you just would have had to live through it.

There are all sorts of ways to crunch the numbers, and you can point out that Bird had better teammates. Which is true, however, there is a "but" to be thrown in. McHale missed a chunk of the season recovering from foot surgery and was never the same player he was before. Parish was aging. D.J. was on his last legs. The team had no bench and all the starters missed time during the season. Bird was fighting through an injury to both achilles tendons that was partically responsible for his season-ending surgery six games into the '89 season. He also suffered a face fracture so bad his eyeball fell out of the socket (seriously). The team was old (for the day), had no bench and was very poory coached. Bird held that sh*t together and had one of his best statistical seasons despite a series of painful injuries. What Jordan did was amazing, but he was young, healthy, and at the height of his athletic powers.

That's why I think that, under the circumstances, what Bird did was even more amazing.

Anonymous padraig said...
Just to be clear, I'm not a dude who solely relies on advanced metrics to judge players. I mainly looked them up b/c I don't actually remember the '88 season and to refresh my memory about '97, especially as I wasn't really watching with such a critical eye back then as a snotty 13 yr old.

Your points about Malone are salient. He was a great, great player, although I'd point that he, like Barkley, was pretty awful in the clutch. I'll concede that "stole" is not the correct term for him winning the MVP.

My general feeling is that MJ could have easily won the MVP basically every year from 90-93 and 95-97. Some years he was more worthy than others, but the way it was handed out didn't seem to be very logical. Basically, it was either MJ or a lifetime achievement award for a guy who'd been really good for a while. Not that Malone and Robinson didn't have great years, but the whole thing just seemed so haphazard. There was a great article about the MVP through the 90s on the Starting Five a few months ago, actually.

As far as 88', without having actually watched much of it besides video clips and a slew of Bulls' playoff games, it still seems like, whether the NBA was trying put on "Save Mike" campaign or not, dude really was pretty deserving of the awards he won, except for that stupid Dunk Contest home favorite thing. Was Larry deserving, especially given the extenuating circumstances? Certainly. I'm just saying that MJ was as well. and it's unfair to call that MVP dubious. I know people slurp MJ constantly but that really was an amazing year (I think the most impressive thing might be his 1.6 blocks/40).

To be honest, it's hard to decipher any award handed out by sportswriters. I've never understood why those dudes control every single major award and who gets into the various Halls of Fame.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
padraig -- Malone certainly had his problems in the clutch. However, I believe a problem he had, and Barkley suffered from this too, is that he was an inside player, and the league allows inside players to be roughed up more than perimeter players. Especially in end of game situations. So whereas defenders were often forced to lay off Jordan or else get called for a foul, the Dennis Rodmans of the world were allowed to push, shove, and grab Malone as he tried to work free for a shot. This doesn't excuse all of Malone's mistakes, such as missing those freethrows in Game 1 of the '97 Finals, or getting stripped at the end of Game 6 of the '98 Finals, which set up Jordan's game-winner. But their circumstances were different.

Jordan without question deserved the '91 and '92 MVPs. But Barkley deserved the '93 MVP. Not only did the Suns improve 10 games by adding him, but the Bulls lost 10 more games than they had the previous season. Barkley and his team were just more dominant...that season.

'96 was Jordan all the way. And if Malone stole it in '97, Jordan stole it back in '98. After all, not only was Malone was again statitically superior (except for a couple points per game), the Jazz had a better record and swept the Bulls in the season series, all this despite losing Stockton for a good chunk of the season with a broken leg. But there was no way they were letting Malone win it two years in a row, especially after the complaints about his '97 MVP.

You know, to be honest I don't really bedgrudge Mike the '88 MVP that much. But I do feel like the voters were swayed by sentiment. But then, when are they not? I'm actually more annoyed about two other MVPs Bird should have won: in '80 and '81. Kareem won it in '80, and he was already on a 50+ win team that added Magic Johnson and won a few more games. Bird got added to a 29-win Celtic club and the team won 61 games, best in the league. And they hadn't even added Robert Parish or Kevin McHale yet.

Dr. J won it in '81. Yet the Celtics earned the best record in the league. In fact, they had to come from way behind to overtake the 76ers, who got off to the best start in NBA history (to that point). And then Bird vastly outplayed the Doc in the Eastern Conference Finals.

But, as you say, it's hard to judge awards that are voted on by sportswriters.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Did you try counting how many white guys were in that video? While the rules have changed to the benefit of Kobe et. al., it seems that the league was far less athletic in Jordan's era.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The numbers don't lie, Bird dominated jordan's teams when they played Bird was 23-11 vs Jordan and swept him twice. Jordan couldn't even beat Bird when he scored 63!! Unlike Jordan, Bird was the best team player, if not for Pippen, Jordan doesn't win any rings. After MJ left in 94, the bulls only dropped 2 games worse, how's that for an MVP, your only worth two games. Here are the head to head matchups between bird and mj for the record:
Jordan vs Bird – (Thu, Nov 15th, 1984) Boston – 125 @ Chicago – 105: Bird Wins
Jordan vs Bird – (Sat, Dec 22nd, 1984) Boston – 85 @ Chicago – 110: Jordan Wins
Jordan vs Bird – (Wed, Jan 9th, 1985) Chicago – 108 @ Boston – 111: Bird Wins
Jordan vs Bird – (Tue, Feb 5th, 1985) Boston – 110 @ Chicago – 106: Bird Wins
Jordan vs Bird – (Fri, Feb 22nd, 1985) Chicago – 105 @ Boston – 115: Bird Wins
Jordan vs Bird – (Wed, Mar 6th, 1985) Chicago – 107 @ Boston – 104: Jordan Wins
Jordan vs Bird – (Sun, Dec 15, 1985) Chicago – 104 @ Boston – 109 (Jordan DNP)
Jordan vs Bird – (Tue, Dec 17, 1985) Boston – 108 @ Chicago – 116 (Jordan DNP)
Jordan vs Bird – (Thu, Jan 30, 1986) Boston – 101 @ Chicago – 91 (Jordan DNP)
Jordan vs Bird – (Tue, Mar 4, 1986) Boston – 106 @ Chicago – 94 (Jordan DNP)
Jordan vs Bird – (Wed, Mar 5, 1986) Chicago – 97 @ Chicago – 108 (Jordan DNP)
Jordan vs Bird – (Fri, Mar 21, 1986) (Chicago – 105 @ Boston – 126 (Bird Wins)

Jordan vs Bird (Thu, Apr 17, 1986) Chicago – 104 @ Boston – 123 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Sun, Apr 20, 1986) Chicago – 131 @ Boston – 135 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Tue, Apr 22, 1986) Boston – 122 @ Chicago – 104 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Fri, Nov 14, 1986) Boston – 110 @ Chicago – 98 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Fri, Jan 2, 1987) Chicago – 99 @ Boston – 122 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Tue, Jan 27, 1987) Boston – 105 @ Chicago – 97 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Wed, Jan 28, 1987) Chicago – 103 @ Boston – 132 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Fri, Mar 27, 1987) Boston – 106 @ Chicago – 111 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Fri, Apr 17, 1987) Chicago – 105 @ Boston – 108 (Bird Wins)

Jordan vs Bird (Thu, Apr 23, 1987) Chicago – 104 @ Boston – 108 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Sun, Apr 26, 1987) Chicago – 96 @ Boston – 105 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Tue, Apr 28, 1987) Boston – 105 @ Chicago – 94 (Bird Wins)

Jordan vs Bird (Mon, Nov 23, 1987) Chicago – 107 @ Boston – 102 (Bird DNP)
Jordan vs Bird (Tue, Jan 12, 1988) Boston – 104 @ Chicago – 97 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Fri, Mar 18, 1988) Boston – 103 @ Chicago – 113 (Jordan Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Sun, Mar 20, 1988) Chicago – 107 @ Boston – 137 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Thu, Apr 21, 1988) Chicago – 119 @ Boston – 126 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Sun, Apr 24, 1988) Boston – 108 @ Chicago – 115 (Bird DNP)
Jordan vs Bird (Wed, Nov 9, 1988) Chicago – 110 @ Boston – 104 (Jordan Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Tue, Dec 6, 1988) Boston – 100 @ Chicago – 105 (Bird DNP)
Jordan vs Bird (Sun, Jan 15, 1989) Boston – 104 @ Chicago – 110 (Bird DNP)
Jordan vs Bird (Wed, Mar 8, 1989) Chicago – 95 @ Boston – 104 (Bird & Jordan DNP)
Jordan vs Bird (Sat, Nov 4, 1989) Boston – 12 @ Chicago – 100 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Sun, Mar 4, 1990) Chicago – 118 @ Boston 114 (Jordan Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Tue, Apr 17, 1990) Boston – 105 @ Chicago 111 (Jordan Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Fri, Apr 20, 1990) Chicago – 116 @ Boston 120 (Bird DNP)
Jordan vs Bird (Tue, Nov 6, 1990) Boston – 110 @ Chicago 108 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Fri, Nov 9, 1990) Chicago – 120 @ Boston 100 (Jordan Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Tue, Feb 26, 1991) Boston – 99 @ Chicago 129 (Jordan Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Sun, Mar 31, 1991) Chicago – 132 @ Boston 135 (Bird Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Wed, Nov 6, 1991) Chicago – 132 @ Boston 113 (Jordan Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Wed, Dec 25, 1991) Boston – 99 @ Chicago 129 (Jordan Wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Wed, Mar 11, 1992) Boston – 85 @ Chicago 119 (Jordan wins)
Jordan vs Bird (Sun, Apr 5, 1992) Chicago – 86 @ Boston 97 (Bird DNP)
Bird 23 wins vs Jordan – 11 At one point Bird had 14 wins in a row on Jordan.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The nba was less athletic during Bird's era?!? Yeah, Dominique, Dr. J, Rodman, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem, David Thompson, these guys were very poor athletes LMAO!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Basketbawf -

That's a SOLID point you made bro.

People TRY and claim that guys like Kareem, or Jordan, or Magic were "better" than Bird, and yet from his infant years to his last days of health, he was EVERY BIT as good or better/more valuable than healthy/prime Magic, Dr. J, Moses, Kareem, Magic, Jordan, and Hakeem.

Think about that for a second.

Those guys are all consistently ranked in the top 10-12 of ALL TIME.

And from 79-88 Bird was ranked as a top 1-3 player EVERY year, in arguably one of the toughest divisions of all time (Bucks, Sixers, Hawks, Knicks, Pistons, and later Bulls all featured tough, hard-nosed teams) in arguably the most celebrated ERA of all time.

Personally, I think it's all hyperbole to rank one legend over another. There's far too much inconsistency between eras, too much accomplishment for the top 5 guys ever to downplay one guy in preference for another.

Jordan won 4 MVP's in the 90's....FOUR. Only 1 in the 80's, with, as you mentioned, his best statistical years BY FAR coming in the late 80's. And that's with the league starting to slowly favor him as well.

In the end, I think its stupid and a pointless effort to say one guy was better than the other. When you're talking about the greats of the greats, they ALL have an advantage over another in atleast one aspect or another. Magic beat Bird, Bird beat Jordan, and Jordan beat Magic. It's all hyperbole to claim one over the other.

A lot of accomplishments have to do with luck, health, teammates, coaches, and level of competition around you.

But a lot of luck never hurts. (Example: Shaq leaving for L.A. in 96 instead of staying in Orlando, which would have been a BIG adversary for the Bulls, and history could have been different, as Shaq was 1-1 vs. MJ in the playoffs).

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Bird's MVP finishes were 4th, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 3rd & 2nd from his rookie year (1979-80) through 1987-88. There's not a better run of MVP finishes for that Era (which was essentially Bird's career when he was healthy enough to put forth a representative effort). He missed 76 games in 1988-89. He led the 1980s in Win Shares. As for the Magic/ Bird debate being turned in Magic's favor based on the team accomplishments----it should be noted that Kareem led the Lakers' in Win Shares for the decade of the 80s through 1985-86. Magic wasn't his own team's Win Share leader for the 80s until his 8th season (1986-87). It's reasonable to say that joining a team that was 47-35 (in 1978-79) already with the league's MVP (Jabbar in 1979-80) was an advantage for team accomplishments. It is well documented that Bird had many HOF teammates and this is used against him in comparisons with some other players like Jordan. The premise is that Bird's team success is simply the result of Bird's good fortune to have the teammates he did. However, it should be noted that these teammates Bird was fortunate to have did NOT win when Bird did not play. The Celtics were 29-53 in 1978-79 (before Bird), then 61-21 the year he arrived (and won ROY in a landslide over Magic). Bird was the only new player in the starting lineup (that is still the greatest 1-year turn around in wins in NBA history when 1 player is new to a starting lineup). This was before DJ, McHale or Parish were ever Celtics. In 1987-88, the Celtics were 57-25 with Bird. In 1988-89, when Bird missed 76 games, the Celtics started 22-24 without him in the lineup despite having Parish, McHale, DJ & Ainge before breaking up that foursome often falsely credited with guaranteeing his success. In 1990-91, with Bird no longer in the kind of health that would enable him to deliver season performances that were representative of his historical skill level, the Celtics nonetheless started out 29-5. Then Bird's back went out. The same team MINUS Bird then went 10-12. He returned nursing a gimpy back and the team finished 17-9 with him. In Bird's final season when he's a virtual cripple, the Celtics are 31-14 with him VS 20-17 without him. Add up the "with him" games and the "without him" games these seasons-----and the Celtics were 81-106 without Bird (despite still having all those teammates people credit with making Bird successful) VS 195-74 with Bird. That averages out to a 35-47 or 36-46 season without Bird VS a 59-23 or 60-22 season with Bird. A winning % of 43.3 without Bird VS a winning % of 72.3% with Bird. Find somebody else who can claim that. Bird's teams were 20-3 against Jordan before Bird was shot in 1988-89. During the regular season, after Jordan returned from his foot injury in 1986 up until Bird missed 76 games in 1988-89, Bird outscored Jordan in head to head games (during what was Jordan's peak scoring time). Jordan outscored Bird in the playoffs (roughly 39ppg to 27ppg)---but MISSED nearly as many shots as Bird took. Bird's teams were 6-0 in the playoffs VS Jordan's teams and Larry was better in 2pt fg%, 3pt fg%, FT%, rebounds & assists in those playoffs.
Bird was the single, best player in the 1980s---which encompassed the whole healthy part of his career.