Throughout NBA history, there have been many rivalries between teams and players that sometimes resulted in high tensions and bad blood moments. One of the most memorable moments like that happened back in 1984 when Julius Erving and Larry Bird started one of the biggest fights ever.
The Celtics and Sixers are known for their rivalry to this day. But in the 80’s it was even more intense, as the two franchises were always battling for the top Eastern Conference. On November 9th,1984, we reached the boiling point.
The Celtics hosted the 76ers at the TD Garden in an early-season matchup, with both teams still being undefeated that season. The fight escalated late in the third quarter of a tight game. Bird was torching Erving, having 42 points to Dr.J’s 6 points. After an offensive foul called on Bird for throwing an elbow at Erving, things went off the rails, as Erving started throwing punches at Bird, who was being restrained by Charles Barkley. Both benches stormed the court as chaos broke out. It looked more like a scene from the WWE rather than the NBA. When all things settled down, Erving and Bird would be ejected and fined 7,500 $ each, as the Celtics won that game 130-119.
The legendary Dr.J. was the most recent guest on JJ Reddick’s podcast “The Old Man and The Three” as Erving himself spoke on the incident, shared his point of view and what led to it:
“Larry and I, we had a legitimate rivalry…It was always tough, you know, playing against them because it seemed they were next in line, and they wanted to force me out because I was reigning small forward of the league.”Julius Erving, The Old Man and The Three
Erving then went into detail about how the fight started and escalated. You guessed it, it wasn’t Dr. J’s fault.
“We go down on defense, and I’m on defense, I’m on him. The call doesn’t go his way, so I immediately go down the court because we got the ball now, so when I run down the court, he is coming down court and coming right towards like he is pissed…I thought he was gonna hit me, I really did, and I reached out, and I just tried to hold him at bay, and I had him in this chest area, and I guess my hand kind slid upon his neck a little bit…So then he reaches over, and next thing I know now he got my neck. I don’t even know what happened. All I know is I threw three jabs, and I got thrown out of the game, and he got thrown out of the game, and we got fined.”Julius Erving, The Old Man and The Three
It might sound weird to younger fans, but the person who got the most criticism (and Bird’s anger) after the fight was Charles Barkley. Guys taking swings at each other was unwanted but understood. Holding a guy while your teammate sucker punches him? Now that was a big no-no.