Prime Larry Bird or Prime LeBron James? 4-Time NBA Champ Makes Easy Decision

Prime Larry Bird or Prime LeBron James? 4-Time NBA Champ Makes Easy Decision

Larry Bird

 Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird won three straight MVPs during the mid-1980s

Comparing players from different eras is difficult. The game has changed. There are different rules, but it’s always a fun topic.


During the 2024 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks, four-time NBA champion John Salley was a guest on the “Dan Patrick Show” and was asked if he’d take prime Larry Bird or prime LeBron James. Salley, who was a part of the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” in the late 1980s, wasted no time in giving his answer.


John Salley Picks Larry Bird Over LeBron James


During Patrick’s interview with Salley, who won two NBA championships with the Pistons and one each with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Patrick posed the question: prime Bird or prime LeBron?


“Larry Bird,” Salley said without hesitation.


“That’s a quick answer,” Patrick said.



“I know I have nightmares,” Salley said. “Do you have nightmares?”


Salley went on to talk about how Bird, who won three straight MVPs from 1984 to 1986, always played through pain and was notorious for his trash talk.


“Larry had more ice on,” Salley said about Bird’s postgame look. “He looked like an Eskimo. He would talk to you, ice everywhere. He iced his knees, iced his ankles, iced his shoulders, ice on his back, ice on his neck. He’d be sitting in that locker room just covered in ice.



“The next day he would come in as if he was not hurting.”


“Did you guard Bird?” Patrick asked.


“Yeah,” Salley answered. “Successfully? No.”


The Celtics and Pistons were a dream matchup in the playoffs during the 80s. The Celtics eliminated Detroit in 1985 and 1987 before the Pistons finally dethroned the three-time champs in that decade, ousting them in 1988.


Salley said he had a good relationship with Bird, but the Celtics legend still trash-talked his way through their matchups.


“Oh, he talked it all the time,” Salley said. “He was constantly, constantly talking. Yeah, he would talk. He would say, ‘Sal, you better ask for a double-team, bro.’”


Bird Won 3 Titles With the Celtics in 6 Years With Boston


Prime Larry Bird was as good as anyone. He immediately made an impact with the Celtics as a rookie during the 1979-80 season.


The year before he got to Boston, the Celtics went 29-53. Bird, who claimed Rookie of the Year honors after averaging a double-double with 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds, guided a 32-win turnaround and led the Celtics to a 61-21 season. He finished fourth in the MVP voting.


The following season, the Celtics acquired Robert Parish and the third overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft in a trade with the Golden State Warriors. They selected Kevin McHale with that pick and won the first of their three championships of the decade in 1981.


Bird and the Celtics won titles in 1981, 1984, and 1986. Along with Bird’s three straight MVPs from 1984 to 1986, he also finished second in the voting in 1981, 1982, and 1983.


He could do it all. Arguably the game’s best passing forward in history, Bird proved he could also shoot the long ball when the 3-pointer was not a big part of the NBA game.


Bird is arguably the best player the Celtics have had, Bill Russell included. Bird is a 12-time NBA All-Star and was named All-NBA 10 times. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.



Gideon Canice

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