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“I did not shake Larry Bird’s hand for 13 years” — Dominique Wilkins reveals the truth about his rivalry with Larry Bird

Wilkins said that he and Larry never really had to talk or shake hands to let each other know that the respect was there.
Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird and Atlanta Hawks forward Dominique Wilkins

Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins

Every NBA fan knows Michael Jordan is the ultimate competitor. However, some may not know, but Larry Bird is no different. In fact, “The Hick from French Lick” did not have too many friends during his playing years as he only knew one thing whenever he was on the court – competition.

Bird reigned in the 80s, and back then, the Eastern Conference was a battleground. And among those who often locked horns with Larry Legend was Atlanta Hawks highflyer Dominique Wilkins.

Game recognize game

Wilkins quickly made his mark in the league during his rookie season. However, no matter how explosive a player Nique was, Bird was never dazzled. And when the two first faced each other, Larry immediately let Wilkins know what he was in for.

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I think my rookie year, he said some things that I won’t say on this video,” Wilkins told Heavy earlier this year.

Nique didn’t have to detail what happened next, as we can be sure that they battled it out on the court. And that went on for years. But at the end of the day, Wilkins said that he and Larry never really had to talk or shake hands to let each other know that the respect was there.

But Larry and I had the utmost respect for each other,” he continued. “You’re talking about a competitor, it’s hard for me to think you’ll find another like Larry…We didn’t talk to each other off the court. We barely shook each other’s hand. I did not shake Larry Bird’s hand for 13 years. That’s just the way it was. As a great player, you did not want any other players to get that close to you. Larry did not even say two words until he was on the floor with you. He talked trash, a little bit of trash.

So what did Larry tell Nique at the time?

For sure, some of us can already imagine how Bird savaged a rookie Wilkins with his trash talk during their first encounter. But for those who missed it, “The Human Highlight Film” revealed what Bird told him that night in a podcast appearance.

The first play in the game, he [Bird] said that I don’t even belong in the league, and immediately makes a three,” Wilkins said in 2019. “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.’

In 1994, Wilkins joined the Boston Celtics. However, Bird was already retired at the time. Needless to say, it would’ve been epic to see two former arch-rivals and future Hall of Famers play for the same team.

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