Here’s 4 reasons why people love that Larry Bird talked trash

Larry Bird trash talkingLarry Bird was a master trash talker. That’s become much more apparent to the public after he retired. When Bird was on the court, the media portrayed him as this quiet, hard working farmboy that was also a fantastic basketball player. What belied those descriptions of Bird was that not only did he torment players with his skills but with his sharp tongue.

Here’s four reasons why people loved Larry Bird’s trash talking:

It’s a White Guy in a Black League: First off, it’s probably because Larry Bird is a Caucasian in a league that was predominantly African-Americans that were the most successful. In that way, he was an underdog and fans love to root for the underdog.

I’m certain that there were more unsavory reasons around race why people liked Larry Bird talking trash, too, but I’m not going to get into that.

Bird Talked Smack on the Down Low: Secondly, Bird did his trash talking in a very undercover manner. Though reporters and fans just saw a mostly-stoic Bird doing his work — players could certainly hear him deadpan how he was going to score 40 on them.

Very rarely did Bird display his trash talking as he did with Chuck Person back in 1991. I came up in the 1980s watching and hating Bird, but I rarely noticed him running his mouth — not anymore than any other player, so it came as a complete surprise when I learned that many players said he was one of the biggest trash talkers in the league.

He Flipped the Script: Another reason why we love the idea of Larry Bird talking trash was because he looked like the worst player on the court. Pale also had a mustache and a mullet. The fact that he ran his mouth so much was akin to the nerd bullying the jocks in high school. Bird talking smack kind of flipped the hierarchy on it’s head. Is that farm boy really running his mouth… and backing it up?

Trash Talk Like No Other: The fourth reason, and primary reason behind why I love Larry Bird’s trash talk is that the smack was so different than any other trash talk you’re used to hearing.

There’s a certain rhythm and vernacular when it comes to trash talking and Larry Bird didn’t follow any of those rules when he opened his mouth. Larry’s boasts were the NBA equivalent of a dad joke.

Yes, Bird’s trash talk was funny, but with his twang, shrug-of-shoulders delivery, his trash talk was so uncool that it was cool. Take this exchange between Bird and a rookie Dominique Wilkins in the early 1980s.From CBS Sports:

“One of the first times I ever played against him, I went out for the opening tip and I went to shake his hand. He just stood there and looked at me stone-faced with his hands behind his back,” Wilkins said recently.

“I was like, ‘Whoa.’ Then we were getting ready for the tip and he says to me, ‘You don’t belong in this league, Homes.’ I couldn’t believe it, but it happened so fast, I didn’t know what to think. […] Then they had the ball and I was on him and he said, ‘I don’t know why they got you guarding me, Homes. You can’t guard me.’ Then, whap, he hit a 3. Then he came down again and said, ‘They made a mistake putting you on me, Homes,’ and he took another 3.”

“So now I’m hot,” he said. “I’m hot. I mean, I’m steaming. […] “Then a little while later, I came down on a break and he was backpedaling. I just went right after him. I jumped up and he tried to challenge, but I took that right through the rim. He fell and hit the basket support. […] “He got up and said, ‘I like you, rookie. You’ve got(guts).’ I was happy for a second, and then he said, ‘But I’m still going for 40 on you tonight.’ ”

As time moved on, I went from disliking Bird to loving him. Bird’s combination of skills, vision, killer instinct and court sense were as unique as what came out of his mouth.

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