Former NBA referee Dick Bavetta holds the league record for most officiated games with 2,635 and worked for the NBA from 1975 until 2014. Bavetta saw quite a bit of basketball in his professional career; however, one of the most memorable moments in his career in which he took a crucial part happened in a regular-season game in 1984 between the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics. Bavetta believes that was one of the greatest rivalries in the NBA, especially during that period, with Larry Bird and Julius Erving leading the way for both teams.
That specific game was intriguing because of several things that happened from the early start-up until the end of the game. Bavetta ended up being the only ref in the game after his colleague Jack Madden broke his foot after a player collided with him at the beginning of the game. Bavetta already had a tough job refereeing the game filled with intensity, with Bird torching Erving scoring 42 points, while Erving had one of the worst games in his career, scoring only six points.
Bird was unstoppable the whole game, and Bavetta remembers he was trash-talking Erving all the time, making one shot after the other. Bavetta considers Bird the greatest trash-talker of all time because he did it differently than others and could always back it up.
Of course, as luck would have it, Larry Bird is having an unbelievable night. Every shot he took, Irving is guarding him, and as every shot that went in that Larry took, he went further back and kept on saying to Erving. Aren’t you going to guard me? Can you do any better? He was the greatest softspoken trash talker I ever meet.Dick Bavetta, via OfficialHoophall
All that trash-talking while scoring 42 points led to causing many frustrations from the Sixers and Julius Erving, who was at that point down by almost 20 points. Bavetta remembers how when the fight started, he didn’t want to interrupt it and just let the players separate Bird and Erving, which they eventually did after they exchanged a few punches.
Funny it got too much, and I look up and see them choking each other. So I just kind of stepped back and watched what was going on, and in so doing, I informed them both Bird and Irving are gone. That was the first and only time both of them were thrown out of the game.Dick Bavetta, via OfficialHoophall
There are countless stories of Bird’s trash-talking, and he was probably one of the most creative players in NBA history when it came down to the art of trash-talking. The best thing about Larry is that he could back up his talking by putting up big numbers just like he did in that game against the Sixers and Erving.