The Bulls lost to Boston Celtics in the 1984 NBA Finals. Michael Jordan was a rookie star on this team, but he never beat Larry Bird and the rest of his teammates in 6 games
The “when did larry bird retire” is a question that has been asked many times. The answer to the question is when Larry Bird retired in 1992.
Michael Jordan and Larry Bird are two of the best players in NBA history, and for most people, they are the first names on their skill Mt. Rushmore. Jordan and Bird revolutionized the game by introducing enormous global appeal to professional basketball and dominating the court with remarkable talent. Bird was a patient and deliberate shooter who understood how to win games, whereas Jordan was a freak athlete with memorable jumps.
Despite the fact that Jordan was younger and more athletic than Bird throughout their rivalry, the Bulls legend never won a game. Jordan, in reality, never defeated Bird in the playoffs. While this was mostly due to Jordan’s youth and lack of resources, Bird relished the opportunity to beat up on the young superstar on several occasions. The same can be said of their regular-season meetings as a whole. Here’s how the matchups between two of the best players in history went.
NBA Playoffs: Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird: 0-6
Michael Jordan would have to undergo beatings at the hands of Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics before becoming the league’s most dominating player. Jordan’s Bulls lost against Bird’s Celtics in the playoffs for two years in a row. Jordan was just 23 years old when the first of two incidents occurred in 1986.
In the first round of the playoffs in 1986, Bird’s Celtics swept Jordan’s Bulls. Jordan just led the Bulls into the playoffs as the eighth seed, and he had a difficult assignment in dealing with Bird and the top-ranked Celtics. The Bulls, as predicted, had no chance.
Jordan was the greatest player on the court, averaging 43.7 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, and 5.7 assists per game, but he only had Orlando Woolridge (21.0 points per game) as his backup. Kevin McHale (28.3 PPG), Dennis Johnson (19.0 PPG), Danny Ainge (17.7 PPG), and Robert Parish all contributed to Bird’s 28.3 PPG (17.0 PPG). Despite Michael’s iconic 63-point outburst in Game 2, the Bulls had little chance and were overwhelmed.
Jordan, now 24, was destined to face Bird and the Celtics once again a year later. Jordan, unfortunately, had the same outcome. Despite Jordan’s 35.7 PPG in the series, the Bulls were swept for the second year in a row. Bird (26.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG) got plenty of support this time, with McHale, Ainge, and Johnson all chipping in. Michael did not have enough to advance beyond the #1 seed for the second time, despite the presence of Charles Oakley (20.0 PPG and 15.3 RPG). Jordan would establish a precedent as the league’s finest individual player, but he’d need a team to overcome the Celtics.
Larry Bird vs. Michael Jordan 11-17 in the regular season
Michael Jordan was clearly the finest pure talent in the NBA by his rookie season, since he was already flashing brilliance at the age of 21. However, having a superstar like Larry Bird teach Jordan some painful lessons, some of which may have helped him become the best of all time. During the regular season, Jordan faced Larry Bird 28 times, for a total of 9 years of epic confrontations. Jordan and Bird had a plenty of opportunities to outscore one other in individual contests between 1984 and 1992.
Despite putting up incredible scoring figures, Jordan could never beat Bird in those 9 seasons, losing 17 of 28 matches. During those games, the Bulls shooting guard averaged 33.5 points per game, while Bird added 26.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. Although Jordan was clearly a greater individual scorer and athleticism, Bird exploited other aspects of his game to defeat the Bulls.
Putting up bigger scoring statistics worked in 11 of the 28 games, but it was evident early on in his career that the rookie shooting guard did not have enough quality on his club. The Celtics were able to beat the Bulls both in the regular season and in the playoffs as a result of this. Jordan would, of course, receive an All-Star Scottie Pippen to step up by 1990. Jordan would have won seven times versus Bird between 1990 and 1992, with four of them victories occurring between 1984 and 1989.
Jordan clearly needed All-Star assistance to beat Bird, who had the guard’s number for the entirety of the game. Those lectures may well have taught the future GOAT how to be a fully-rounded superstar, as Jordan would go on to become a 6-time NBA champion and one of the best athletes in professional sports history.
Stats comparing Michael Jordan and Larry Bird
Michael Jordan’s regular season stats were 33.5 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 5.8 assists per game, 2.7 steals per game, and 1.1 blocks per game.
Larry Bird’s regular season stats are: 26.9 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, 6.4 assists per game, 1.4 steals per game, and 0.9 blocks per game.
Michael Jordan’s playoff statistics were 39.7 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, 5.8 assists per game, 2.2 steals per game, and 1.8 blocks per game.
Larry Bird’s playoff statistics are as follows: 27.2 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game, 8.5 assists per game, 1.5 steals per game, and 0.8 blocks per game.
Michael Jordan won the battles against Bird, but Bird won the wars, it’s reasonable to say. Larry Legend was perhaps the finest player in the league in his peak, while Michael Jordan was still learning the ropes of the game. Jordan had incredible numbers (39.7 points per game in the playoffs!) and was a phenomenal individual athlete, but Bird understood how to win on the greatest stage and benefited from championship teams constructed around him. Bird also often outperformed Jordan in other aspects of the game, including as playmaking and rebounding.
Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, two of the greatest players of all time, faced off in epic matches throughout the regular season and playoffs. But Bird had to put up with the burgeoning presence of the future GOAT to the point that he dubbed Jordan “God disguised as Michael Jordan.” That remark was made during their matchup in the 1986 playoffs, when Michael scored 63 points and seemed invincible.
Both athletes are among the best players of all time, but Jordan may have benefited the most from his defeats to Larry Bird since he went on to become the greatest player in NBA history as a result of his experiences. Jordan may have been relieved to see Bird leave in 1992, since the GOAT would joke, “I’m tired of seeing your face.” For me, you brought up a lot of painful memories. Many of my excellent games versus the Boston Celtics were destroyed by you.”
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