We got a feel for how it was going up against Larry Bird. There was no way of stopping the guy, but more importantly, there was no way of making him stop talking. So for all the physical and basketball challenges that went hand in hand with facing Bird, the mental part of it seemed to be the biggest one.
But how was it practicing with him on a daily basis? His former teammate Ed Pinckney, who was a teammate of Larry from ’89 to ’94, shed light on it this week on the Blueblood on the Mainline podcast.
You know as a competitor when you’re matched up against someone who’s touted as the best, you have pride as an individual player. You’re not just gonna go into practice and lay down. And this dude used to come into practice every day and go, ‘Pinck, sorry. I gotta kick your ass today.’Ed Pinckney, Blueblood on the Mainline: A Villanova podcast
Ed, being the competitor that he was, got into a back-and-forth with Larry. ‘Nah, that’s not gonna happen.’ ” Pinckney said. “He’d be like, ‘Yeah, nah, yes, it is. Don’t take it personal, but I’m really gonna kick your ass.’ And that’s how the practice would start off. And I would be like, ‘Alright, let’s go. Let’s go at it.'”
So it turns out Larry’s mouthiness wasn’t limited to his opponents. Where there was competition involved, Bird would bring it, no matter the logo on the guy’s jersey. But he still went the hardest when it was game time, and Pinckney had seen its first iteration when, at the end of a close game, Bird told an opposing coach that he was going to hit a 3-pointer from the corner to win the game. And that’s exactly what he did.
That was one of my first years on the team, and I’m saying to myself, ‘The dude just told the opposing team where he was going to shoot the ball from!’ And everybody was like, ‘Yeah, Ed, he does that all the time. That’s just what he does.’ And it was incredible to watch him play and to witness his greatness. It was unbelievable.”Ed Pinckney, Blueblood on the Mainline: A Villanova podcast
Pinckney said it the best, ‘Bird’s mouth didn’t have an off switch.’ It took a toll on him so much that he refused to take his sons trick-or-treating near Bird’s house on Halloween because he didn’t want to hear Larry’s smack talk. Because Bird spared no one, not even his teammates.