As much as he is iconic, Larry Bird can be talked about as relatively underrated, as his unbelievable run in the ’80s is often overlooked and in the shadow of the careers of other greats like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson. But don’t get it twisted, Bird is one of the best basketball players ever, and everybody who faced him on the court is aware of that.
On an Open Court segment that revolved around maybe three of the most notorious NBA players in history: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, the crew gave their thoughts on the three and memories of facing them or watching them. Another NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal had a fascinating take on how he saw Larry Bird.
“I really never had the chance to play against Larry Bird but I actually used to hate Larry Bird. I was sort of jealous of him or something because he was a regular guy who did everything. He shot it in your face, he had the fadeaway. One time, I was watching a game, and he was falling out of bounds and he shot that thing over the backboard and I was like… I thought most of what he did was luck but as I got old and kept watching I knew it was skill. For him to have his name in so many categories with Magic and Michael Jordan says how great of a player he was.”Shaquille O’Neal, Open Court
Shaq shared the opinion of many non-NBA players at the time, who simply couldn’t believe a player like Bird with no impressive psychical attributes could dominate the game so easily due to his skill. At the time, athletic phenoms were thriving in the league, and Bird was the odd man out showing something completely different. Unfortunately for Shaq, he never got to face Bird, as he just entered the NBA when Bird retired. But he still learned a valuable lesson from his peers, who convinced him that man was the real deal – despite his off days’ diet.