One of the most underrated rivalries in the NBA was the one between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics in the first part of the ’80s. Above everything else, it was also a personal rivalry between the biggest stars in each of these teams, Larry Bird and Julius Erving. Erving was already a superstar and a legend in the league, while Bird was slowly but surely making his presence known and establishing himself as one of the best forwards in NBA history. Even though their battles on the court were fierce, the respect between the two was tremendous.
Today marks Larry Bird’s 63rd birthday, so we bring you the story on how Julius Erving explained how it was competing against Bird, which genuinely presents the true essence of basketball. Erving had a lot of respect for Larry, and since they were both incredible competitors, they brought the best out of each other every time they faced off either in a regular-season or a playoff game.
“When I get the ball in my hands and when you turn, and you face him when you take the initiative to face him aggressively, then he has to react. He may not react physically, but his heart jumps if you turn, and you really look at him like you mean business. His heart might even stop for a second, especially if you are good. This is when you start playing the game as you were when you were a kid, because this is when you are playing basketball, and you are not working. To me, this has always been a beautiful experience because I can look in a guy’s eye, and I can also tell if he means business, and I can also feel whether my heart stops or stands still or not. If I’m looking at him and he’s looking at me, and we have got the same thing in mind–playing basketball and playing it the way that nobody else in the world plays it–then I think we create something beautiful.”