Skip to main content

The last great duel between Michael Jordan and Larry Bird (And it wasn't a McDonald's commercial)


Over their mutual reign over the NBA, two of the all-time basketball greats Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, had many unforgettable battles. The last great one took place on March 31st, 1991.

They didn't play the same position, but the players who occasionally guarded each other had a great deal of mutual respect. After MJ torched the Celtics with unbelievable 63 points in game 2 of the 1986 Eastern Conference First Round, it was Bird who praised the young Bulls superstar.

"I would never have called him the greatest player I'd ever seen if I didn't mean it. It's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Larry Bird, Boston Globe

Their head-to-head comparison across eight seasons reveals that the Celtics have posted a respectable 17-11 record in the games, which featured their fierce scoring battles. The two greats had similar stats except in the categories of scoring (Jordan 33.5ppg vs. Bird 26.9), steals (Jordan 2.7 vs. Bird 1.4), and three-point field goal percentage (Bird 46.9% vs. Jordan 30.6%).

One of the most epic and memorable battles between the two future Dream Team teammates occurred on March 31st, 1991. Bird, who fully recovered from an injury that forced him to miss almost the entire 1988-89 season, was having another All-Star season while leading the rejuvenated Celtics to another postseason appearance.

On the other hand, Jordan, who traditionally led the league in scoring from 1987, took Phil Jackson's preseason advice and eventually adapted his style of play to the newly implemented Chicago Bulls more team-oriented offensive system – the triangle-offense.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Bird led the way for the Celtics to a hard-fought 132-135 epic double-overtime win. Covered by Horace GrantScottie Pippen, and Cliff Levingston, The Hick from the French Lick, scored 34 points on 15-36 shooting from the field to go along with 15 boards, 8 assists, and 3 blocked shots in 52 minutes of play.

Jordan played one minute less than Bird. Even though Reggie Lewis confronted him, MJ was able to score or dish almost at will. Scoring 37 points on 12-36 shooting (13-13 from the line) while also contributing 7 boards, 9 assists, and 2 steals to the Bulls' strong effort to win in the Boston Garden.

At the dramatic end of the regulation, Lewis first denied Jordan the ball. Then Bird launched a triple at the buzzer, hit the iron, but the ball eventually bounced back before finally clanging off the rim.

In overtime, the heated battle continued. John Paxson tied the game with a triple with 32.4 seconds left in the first overtime. Then, with 1.1 seconds left, Grant intercepted the Cs inbounds played and gave the Bulls a chance to win it.

With the shot clock resetting to 0.4 seconds before the end of the 1st OT, all eyes were on MJ. And he certainly didn't disappoint, although the play didn't count. The Celtics Croatian 7'2" giant Stojko Vrankovic went into the game to alternate the inbound pass by Pippen. But Pippen did hit MJ with the ball in the right corner. With Lewis' hand in his face, MJ went up for a turnaround jumper just in front of the Celtics bench and hit it! But, the basket was waved off by official Mike Mathis.

Bird opened the second overtime with red hot shooting from the wing. With his concentration at maximum level, Jordan took over for the Bulls, taking advantage of the friendly rims at the Garden! But this time around, MJ just couldn't do it all by himself, and the Celtics won the thrilling game by 132-135.

Max Strus

Max Strus shares why the Miami Heat will bounce back this season after a disappointing start - "We have two young guys that are turning the corner of being superstars"

Strus breaks down why the Miami Heat will bounce back this season while giving high praise to Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro

Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd explains why he isn’t too concerned with the Dallas Mavericks' slow start to the season

Kidd believes that the Mavs are figuring things out slowly but surely, and ensured fans that they won't be winning any awards for the first 20 games of the season

Charles Barkley & Erik Spoelstra

Charles Barkley believes it's time for the Miami Heat to break the team up and start over

Barkley pondered whether or not it was time for the Heat to start from scratch amid their 11-14 run in the first 25 games of the season

Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley and New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson

“It looked like me and Shaq had a baby” — when Chuck had Shaq dying laughing with his Zion comment

One year later, Zion proved he's put in the work and is leading the New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs.

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant and Washington Wizards point guard Gilbert Arenas

"It was intelligent trash talking, when you played him you’re playing a mental war" — Gilbert Arenas shares his experience trash-talking Kobe Bryant

Former Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas outlines what it was like to receive trash-talking from Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Former NBA player Stephen Jackson

"They gave me a check for $25,000 cash, I blew it all in one day" — Stephen Jackson reveals he blew his first NBA paycheck

Former three-point specialist Stephen Jackson reveals how he and Mike Bibby spent his first NBA pay check in a few hours.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and New Orleans Hornets guard Devin Brown

“I think we can pay you a little bit more than that” — When Gregg Popovich saved Devin Brown from an overnight stocker job

Thanks to Gregg Popovich's training camp invite, Devin Brown was able to live his NBA dream.