One of the underrated rivalries in the mid-’80s was between the Boston Celtics led by Larry Bird and the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan was establishing himself as one of the best players in the NBA. Games between Jordan and Bird as two main stars of their teams brought crowds to their feet, and it was evident from the start that there is immense respect between the two legends.
After Bird announced his retirement in 1992, Jordan paid ultimate respect for his rival and former teammate on Team USA. In a message sent to Bird, Jordan said he is looking forward to Bird retiring because of all the games he won against Jordan, and there were actually quite a few of them, especially in the playoffs.
“Larry, I hear that you’re retiring. Thank goodness. I’m glad. I’m tired of seeing your face. You brought a lot of sad memories for me. I enjoyed it, and I wish you a lot of luck, and I think you had a great and wonderful career. You ruined a lot of my successful games against the Boston Celtics.”Michael Jordan, via Larry Bird Retirement Ceremony
Bird and Jordan played against each other in 28 games during the regular season, in which Bird won 17 games and Jordan only 11. They both performed exceptionally well against each other during their mini-rivalry, with Jordan averaging 33.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. Bird would dominate in every aspect of the game averaging 27 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists.
They both met two times in the playoffs, and the Bulls got swept each time despite Jordan’s godly performances against the Celtics. Jordan never won against Bird and the Celtics in the playoffs, and this is where Bird gained Jordan’s respect, which is not something a lot of NBA players have the privilege to say.