There are countless amazing stories about Larry Bird's greatness, especially those that describe how he used trash-talking to get the edge over the opposing players. It seemed that Bird was always at least one step ahead of his competition, and fans would always say Bird was playing chess on the court while others were playing checkers.
One of the things that made Bird such a deadly player was his versatility and sheer competitive spirit that only a few could match. He was a true leader who demanded a lot from his teammates and gave it all on the court, no matter if it was a regular-season game or a critical playoff game.
Charles Barkley had his share of battles with Bird in the first part of his career and, in one of his older post-game interviews, remembered when he was guarding Bird on one possession. Robert Parish was coming to set a screen, but he did a lousy job, even though Bird was able to get the shot off over Barkley. Barkley said he never saw something like that in his life; when Bird was in the air, he told Parish he didn't do a good job setting the screen while still making the shot, even though Barkley was all over him.
Larry uses picks probably better than any player in the game. Larry was on the box, and Robert Parish was coming down trying to set a pick on me. The Chief didn't throw a good pick, so while Larry is in the air, he's got the ball over his head, and he is screaming at Chief for not setting the pick. I'm like, you are screaming at a guy in the air for not setting the pick, and he makes the jumper. I couldn't believe that.
That is just one story that proves Bird was truly an exceptional talent and one of the game's best pure shooters. He was unbelievably poised no matter what the situation was or the pressure to make a play for his team. There was a legitimate fear factor around Bird because teams didn't know how to play him on defense. If you stop him from getting the shot he wants, he will find an open teammate for an easy shot or a layup, which is one of the reasons why Barkley believes he used the picks so well in his game. Bird deserves more recognition among NBA fans today because players with such a combination of skill, IQ, competitiveness, and desire to win are a rare breed in the NBA.