We often hear that today’s NBA is not a man’s league anymore and reminisce about the good old days. PLayers today are very sensitive, take everything personally and find everything “disrespectful”. While I enjoy the free-flowing game and don’t miss the good old 89-86 with 16 elbows thrown under the basket, I do find the emotional sensitivity of today’s players (and generations in general) a bit annoying.
Trash talk used to be a regular part of the game. Basketball is as much mental as it is physical and finding your opponents weak spot and using it to your advantage was a part of the game. Don’t get me wrong, even then certain areas were off limits but players didn’t take everything so personally. In one of the Open Court episodes, Kevin McHale told one of his favorite Bird stories:
We’re playing Phoenix and we’re way ahead. We’re playing good as a team and Larry has the worst fourth-quarter known to man. I mean he’s throwing the ball to the other team. I’m like “good Lord“. We have a 15 point lead, next thing you know, we’re down 2. I’m like “how in the world are we gonna lose this game.” and Larry says “I’m gonna bust this play, I’m gonna shoot a three.” I’m like ”Birdy, we need to get into overtime. Try to get this ship right. We’re sinking man.” So, Larry not only tells me that, he walks by the bench and says, you know, typical Birdy “Your bus is at three, you guys are going home.” So, he breaks the play up, hits it, looks at the bench and goes “Told you so!” That was Birdy, he had so much confidence. He talked to the coaches, he talked to everybody. He talked trash all the time. But fun, great competitor.
This story encapsulates everything you need to know about Larry Bird. Above all else, an extremely confident man who after bricking the entire fourth quarter breaks a play and shoots a game-winning three. Spices it up with a trailer for the opposing team and most importantly – delivers! His trash talk was mostly telling players what he would do to them and then, he did it. He pumps himself up and creates a feeling of hopelessness with the opponent.
Back in those days, they wouldn’t call it disrespect, they called it greatness.