When asked who’s the best defensive player he ever faced, Larry Bird didn’t hesitate for a second — it’s Michael Cooper. But that didn’t make any difference to the Celtics legend when it was time to talk smack.
He never did any sugar honey ice tea talking; he just kinda played. But this one time, he came down – this is in ’87, we’re playing for the championship – and he goes, ‘Coop, I’m about to wear your ass out.’Michael Cooper, The No Chill Podcast
Coop was locked in, all up in Bird’s grill. As the play started to develop, Robert Parish came in and set a pick, leaving Coop behind No.33. Bird came off the pick and got to the elbow when he received a pass from Dennis Johnson. Kareem stepped up, buying Cooper some time to recover on the play.
A second later, Larry was double-teamed by 6-5 Cooper and 7-2 Kareem, in what seemed as a turnover waiting to happen. But it didn’t happen. Larry Legend pulled off a play that left even the former DPOY in awe, following it up with – you’ve guessed it – words.
He goes up and I said, ‘I’m going to smack this sh*t.’ He goes up, Kareem is there, my hands are there, and I don’t know how this guy got the ball to Robert Parish, but he throws it to Parish for a pick-and-roll play; Parish gets the ball, slam dunk, Boston goes up, fans going crazy. He goes, ‘I told you ass.’Michael Cooper, The No Chill Podcast
You got to hand it to Bird; he really was a man of his word. When he walked into the locker room during the ’88 All-Star and asked, “who’s coming in second,” he ended up winning the contest. When he promised Ed Pinckney he would kick his ass in practice, that’s exactly what he did. When he told Xavier McDaniel where he would get the ball and how he would score, he found the spot he’d pointed out and hit the shot.
The ’87 NBA Finals Game was no different. Bird told Cooper he would wear his ass out, and he did it. And more than three decades later, that’s what Coop remembers him for.
To me, that might seem like something simple, but that’s a greatness of a great player in Larry Bird. From that point forward, we never talked; he never said anything else; it was just the fact he wore my ass out on that play.Michael Cooper, The No Chill Podcast
The trash talk, combined with a moment of brilliance the Celtics legend displayed on that play, is a complete synopsis of Bird’s NBA career. That’s what made him unguardable, even to the one who Bird admitted guarded him the best.