Larry Bird is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players to ever live. Even though injuries prevented him from having a bigger career, Larry did plenty of good things with the Boston Celtics, earning a special place in fans' memories.
Even if he was great, he still had detractors, and one of the biggest was the always controversial Isiah Thomas. During his active days, the Detroit Pistons legend always tried to taunt his rivals. Larry, as you can imagine, was not the exception.
Zeke and teammate Dennis Rodman took a shot at Bird back in the day, saying he was overrated because he was white. If he was another black player in the league, he would be average.
Forbes recalls that following Game 7 of the 1987 ECF, Thomas and Rodman were inquired about Bird and everything he did against the Pistons that year. They said something that didn't sit well around the league:
After the Pistons were eliminated by Bird and the Celtics in Game 7 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, Rodman was asked in the locker room about Bird’s performance and, according to a New York Times account from the time, said Bird was “very overrated” and that he had won three straight MVP awards only ''because he was white.''
Isiah Thomas, told of Rodman's remarks, said he ''had to agree with'' him. ''Larry Bird is a very, very good basketball player. I think he’s an exceptional talent,'' Thomas said. ''But I’d have to agree with Rodman, if he was black he'd be just another good guy.” Thomas later said his comments were meant sarcastically, that he was friendly with Bird and that he had great respect for him.
You can say these words were said out of jealousy. Bird and his Celtics dominated the Pistons for most of the 80s until they came up with their 'Bad Boy' game and characters. Then, they changed the course of the league, surpassing the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers for two seasons.
It wasn't until Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls made the leap that the Pistons' reign stopped.
Detroit and Boston were big rivals back in the day and these words are ample proof of that. Bird gave them buckets and made their life a living nightmare all while looking like another regular dude. He was a 'bad man' and even if the Bad Boys didn't want to admit it, he was an all-time great.