Pro basketball in the 1980s and 90s was different. The superstars were less concerned about their images and their “brands.” They cared about winning and, ideally, trash-talking their opponents while doing it. Today’s NBA stars don’t understand that, which is why Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green — a throwback trash-talker in the modern NBA — was so surprised when Hall of Famer Gary Payton explained to him that Larry Bird was “the coldest dude I ever seen” when it came to trash talk.
Gary Payton surprised Draymond Green with his Larry Bird stories
On Uninterrupted: Thrown Bones, a show where basketball luminaries and celebrities play dominoes worth Draymond Green, Gary Payton regaled Green, WNBA star and ESPN analyst Chiney Ogwumike, and hip hop star YG with stories of the NBA good ol’ days.
Green, a noted trash-talker himself, asked legendary yapper Payton who the biggest trash-talkers he had ever played against. Among the usual suspects and some surprising additions, Payton mentioned Larry Bird.
After Payton singled out the “Hick From French Lick” for this trash talk Green incredulously asked, “Bird talked s*** s***, like we talk?”
That’s when Payton schooled the youngster on the on-court ways of Larry Legend.
“Let me tell you all something. Bird used to tell me, ‘I’m going to shoot this mother***ing jumper in your face right there in that corna’. And it’s going to be your Christmas present. I’m gonna wrap it up and bust yo’ head open.’ All that s***,” Payton told Green. “He’s the coldest dude I ever seen with that s***, man. Everyone talking about these great greats and always mentioning him. He was the s***. The s***. He’ll give it to you any way he wanted to. Any way he wanted to. Larry Bird was cold.”
With that, Draymond Green learned a lesson about Larry Bird. Just like so many basketball players through the years, Green saw a skinny, quiet, blonde, white guy from Indiana and assumed certain things about him.
And as usual, Bird (or a legendary story about Bird) confounded those expectations.
But the most interesting thing about Gary Payton saying that Bird is the “coldest” trash-talker he ever played against is that the two only faced-off four times in their NBA careers.
Gary Payton vs. Larry Bird only happened four times
The fact that Gary Payton says Larry Bird is “the coldest dude I ever seen” when it comes to trash-talking is pretty amazing when you consider how little the two overlapped in the NBA.
Payton was the No. 2 overall pick of the 1990 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics out of Oregon State. By that point, Bird’s back was a mess, and he was in the twilight of his career with the Boston Celtics. In fact, Bird would only play two seasons with Payton in the league, 1990-91 and 1991-92.
And with the Sonics in the Western Conference and the Celtics in the East, the two future Hall of Famer’s teams only played twice a year.
In those games, Bird’s Celtics were 4-0 vs. Payton’s Sonics. And even with an aching back, Bird outplayed the rookie and second-year player by a solid margin. Here is how the two matched up statistically in those games:
|Dec. 3, 1990||BOS 135, SEA 102||30:00||11||10||4||2||1||4|
|Feb. 12, 1991||BOS 114, SEA 111||42:00||18||10||5||1||0||2|
|Dec. 13, 1991||BOS 117, SEA 97||38:00||28||5||8||0||0||3|
|Dec. 27, 1991||BOS 110, SEA 87||35:00||26||10||4||4||0||6|
|Dec. 3, 1990||SEA 102, BOS 135||33:00||4||4||1||1||0||4|
|Feb. 12, 1991||SEA 111, BOS 114||24:00||4||1||13||0||0||0|
|Dec. 13, 1991||SEA 97, BOS 117||25:00||0||1||7||0||1||2|
|Dec. 27, 1991||SEA 87, BOS 110||34:00||4||1||4||3||1||2|
Even in his reduced state, Bird still dominated Payton and the Sonics when they played in the early 90s. So, it’s no surprise that Payton still remembers “Larry Legend” as a swashbuckling, trash-talking force.
What is also interesting about the story that Payton told Draymond Green is that he specifically remembered Bird talking about giving the young point guard a Christmas present in the form of a dagger shot.
Three of the four games they played against each other were in December, and the final game was two days after Christmas.