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Larry Bird Opened Up On His Beef With Jermaine O’Neal At Pacers: “You Hate To Trade Your Best Player."

Larry Bird Opened Up On His Beef With Jermaine O’Neal At Pacers: “You Hate To Trade Your Best Player."

Larry Bird is most commonly associated with the Boston Celtics, and he is arguably the most celebrated player in Boston's history. Bird won multiple championships and MVPs during his stint with the team and is widely considered a Top 10 player to have played in the league. But Larry Legend was originally from Indiana, and he spent a lot of time as the President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers. 

Bird won Executive Of The Year in 2012 when he was still in his role with the organization. Barring one year after 2012, when he wasn't with the team thanks to health reasons, he spent many years as an executive for the Pacers, even though he recently stepped down. And during that time, he had some issues with Pacers All-Star Jermaine O'Neal, which eventually led to O'Neal being traded in 2008. 

The Pacers of the early 2000s had O'Neal, an older but still effective Reggie Miller, and Metta Sandiford-Artest (then known as Ron Artest). They were widely thought to be championship contenders, but the Malice at the Palace broke the team, and they were never able to live up to that hype. Injuries and other issues followed that lost season, and O'Neal and Bird's relationship deteriorated to the point where he was traded. 

Bird and O'Neal spoke about their issues later, addressing the tension that had existed between them for a few seasons (via Sports Illustrated). 

Larry Bird: "You hate to [trade] your best player. But he was at the point where he thought a change of scenery would help him."

Jermaine O'Neal: "I had the best conversation I've had with Larry in five years. It was really civil, really logical. ... I don't think that we hated each other. I just think so much had happened that it made the job difficult, and the only way for that team to move forward was to move me."

Jermaine O'Neal was an absolute beast in his prime, and it's a shame his career petered out in the way that it did. The story also goes to show that even legends like Bird have struggled after their playing careers when they stepped into these managerial roles. At least both men found a way to amicably move past their differences, something today's stars could also take heed from.