Nice guys finish last. That iconic line can be applied in numerous aspects of life, and especially in basketball. We have seen countless nice guys and bad guys through the long history of the NBA, but the fact of the matter is that players that know how to get a dirty win more. Charles Barkley made a great point about that a few years ago when explaining who are some bad and good greats in NBA history.
Having a killer mentality is one of the more overlooked aspects of a player, but a very important one. It's what separates the great from the good and eventually wins championships. Just look at guys like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
They were definitely not the favorite people in the locker room, demanding the most out of their teammates, but they also knew how to put their team on their back and guide them to the promised land one way or another. Giannis Antetokunmpo is a great example of that in the modern NBA. It's something many fault guys like LeBron James or Anthony Davis for not being able to do.
A few years ago on The Dan Patrick Show, Charles touched on the subject of nice and bad guys in the NBA. Barkley explained how MJ and Kobe were never considered nice, but it worked for them, bringing numerous championships. At the same time, great players like David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Karl Malone, and more lacked that killer instinct to maybe win more.
Dan was interested to know if Larry Bird was a nice guy, and Charles gave him an honest answer:
"No. But he didn't have that physical ability. Larry beat you with his will and his mind. But he didn't have athletic ability like Kobe or Michael, and LeBron, and those guys. Larry willed himself and his team to win."
Charles Barkley, The Dan Patrick Show
Knowing how ferocious and competitive Bird would get on the court with his trash-talking, it was hard to assume he was a nice guy, at least between the lines. We heard some of the best and most savage trash-talking stories come from Larry, and he had the game to back it up. Maybe not in a physical way like MJ or Kobe, but with his sheer skill and will, as said by Charles Barkley.