With the number of players he trash-talked and took to school, if the NBA ever introduces a trash-talking award it should be named after Larry Bird. The guy was just peerless when it comes to mind games, as rookie Eddie Johnson found the hard way.
Eddie Johnson’s "welcome to the NBA" moment
Eddie Johnson guested on the Rex Chapman Show with Josh Hopkins published on BasketballNews.com’s Youtube page. He shared what it’s like playing in the NBA and, as usual shared the legendary trash talking and beating he received from no other than Larry Bird.
“There’s one particular one game in Boston. It was my second game of my career and I’m scared to death already. The veterans on my team said, “Eddie just don’t pay attention to him.” So I mind my own business on the jump. He just stands next to me and he leans over and he looks at and he said “Do you honestly think you gonna guard me?” I just didn’t say nothing.
Then he stands up and he looks over at our bench and he looks at Kyle. “You all think this rookie gonna guard me? Man, I’m gonna bust you up!” Just right in my ear.”
Johnson added the beatings went on, but it came to a point where he needed to push back. On one play, he bloodied Bird with his elbow. After the game, Larry confronted Eddie in the locker room and almost came to blows. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and Bird never trash talked him after. Eddie earned the respect of his opponent by hitting him and proving he wouldn’t allow being punked around.
Bird as the ultimate mentor
Johnson’s story is not the first nor the last we will hear connected to Larry Bird. However, the players he had beaten badly learned their lessons and improved their games. It’s up to the player to rise above it or shrink due to the adversity.
Eddie Johnson went on to play for 17 seasons in the NBA, suiting up for Kansas City, Indiana, Charlotte, Seattle, Phoenix, and Houston. He had decent career averages of 16 points, four rebounds and 2.1 assists. Johnson may not have received the respect he deserved, the shooting guard never made the All-Star game despite averaging 22.9 points at some point, but he earned respect from one of the greatest competitors to ever play, Larry Bird.