BY Jaryd Cline
Monday night after Miami’s 102-90 win over Indiana, superstar LeBron James finally surpassed NBA legend Michael Jordan in something. James moved ahead of Jordan and everyone else by recording game No. 74 with at least 25 points, five boards and five assists in the playoffs.
After waking up Tuesday morning and checking the world of sports, the talk was all about LeBron, as usual. Although this time the comparisons were between James and Larry Legend, the two best small forwards ever.
Why the comparison to Larry Bird all of the sudden? During ESPN’s Game 4 broadcast, former NBA head coach Mark Jackson said just about what every NBA fan was thinking that has never seen Bird play, “He’s the greatest small forward to ever play this game.”
LeBron will eventually be the best, but to give LeBron the honor right now without any question, discussion or debate involving Bird? Asinine.
Skip Bayless, one of the most outspoken personalities in sports, went to Twitter Tuesday morning to share his always bold thoughts.
“Larry Bird remains better than LeBron at small forward. Much better shooter. Better rebounder, Equal passer. Underrated D (31st steals).”
Wait, Larry Bird a better shooter, rebounder and passer than LeBron James, the best player ever? Wasn’t Bird a white boy who couldn’t run or jump and could only shoot three-pointers?
True and False. Bird couldn’t run or jump as well as the majority of the league, but he made up for it with his leadership, amazingly high basketball IQ and competitive nature.
Magic Johnson, arguably the greatest point guard to play, once said “Of all the people I play against, the only one I truly fear is Larry Bird.”
Magic did play in one of the most competitive decades in the history of the league and did match up with Michael Jordan quite a bit.
Looking at the stats, it’s easy to assume LeBron is the best small forward to play, averaging roughly three more points-per-game than Bird, with similar assist numbers. Where Bird separates himself from Bron is his work on the low block and in the post. Bird grabbed 10 boards-a-game during his career and was super efficient on the low block, hitting fadeaway jumpers and throwing no-look dimes on the regular.
Don’t get me wrong, LeBron is the best right now, but he shouldn’t be crowned the best small forward until he at least passes Bird in championships.
Lastly, Michael Cooper, who won the 1987 Defensive Player of the Year award and was on eight-straight All-Defensive teams, battled Bird many times back in the day.
“People said he was overrated … f—, no,” said Cooper. “If anything, he was underrated. What made him so good was you didn’t just have to worry about his scoring. You had to worry about this guy’s defense, his passing, his ability to save balls from going out of bounds, his ability to set picks and get people open … Most players are one- or two-dimensional. Larry was ten-dimensional.”