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Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird had their share of battles either in the regular season or the playoffs. Most of the time, Bird came out on top in their matchups; however, Dominique earned Bird’s respect from the first game they played against each other. In a recent interview with The Players Tribune, Dominique shared what makes Larry Bird great in comparison to other great players.

"A great athlete will give you a lot of Oohs & Aahs, while a great basketball player will beat you every night, and that is Larry Bird."

Dominique Wilkins, via The Players Tribune

Dominique remembered what was like to face Larry Bird for the first time in his rookie season back in 1981. Dominique went hard at Bird and was even able to posterize him big time in that game.

“I will never forget the first time I played Larry Bird. I went to shake Larry’s hand, and he had both hands behind his back. He wouldn’t shake my hand. And I’ said OK, he’s just getting into the game. The first play in the game, he said that I don’t even belong in the league, and immediately makes a three. And he came back and did it again. So I’m pissed and next time down on the fast break, and I jump up, and I throw it down on him. I mean he fouls me and says, “Hey Rook, I like you. You got a heart. But I’m still getting 30 on your ass.”

Dominique Wilkins, via The Players Tribune

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Dominique said that was the only time he trashed talked to Larry Bird and said he appreciates him a lot because he learned from Bird that you have to be tough if you want to win against the best players in the NBA.

“I mean, that was the only time he talked trash to me because he respected me because he knew I was going to keep coming. That really taught me something. If you weren’t prepared to play against guys that are like that, you got embarrassed. He had an attitude and a heart of a lion. And he didn’t like anybody. He didn’t care who you were. We never shook hands for 13 years. Never shook hands. And it just pushes you to have the same toughness and that same attitude. We had some epic battles.”

Dominique Wilkins, via The Players Tribune

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