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Referee Reveals What Larry Bird Told Julius Erving Before Infamous Brawl: "Aren’t You Gonna Guard Me?"

Referee Reveals What Larry Bird Told Julius Erving Before Infamous Brawl: "Aren’t You Gonna Guard Me?"

Larry Bird's trash-talking skills are incredibly famous around the NBA. The Boston Celtics legend earned a reputation thanks to his harsh words against rivals, who couldn't do anything to fire back on the court. 

No. 33 was a menace and he didn't mince words to get under people's skins, even if he had to trash talk teammates, as he did with Cedric Maxwell after the 1981 Finals MVP sustained a serious injury and was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Larry's words had some effect on players, and there was one that couldn't take it anymore and went at it with the Boston Celtics superstar. Julius Erving threw some punches at Larry, starring in one of the most infamous brawls in NBA history

Both players were ejected from the game after that sequence, something unthinkable at the time. They were two megastars in the league; the game was on national TV, so it took a lot of courage from the referee to make that decision. 

Dick Bavetta knew he had a difficult job in hand, especially after his partner, unfortunately, broke his leg, leaving him alone to officiate a game between two fierce rivals. Bavetta revealed what escalated this situation. If you didn't guess, it was Larry Bird's picking on Julius Erving, bragging about the good night he was having. 

“As every shot went in that Larry took, he went further back and he kept on saying to Erving, ‘Aren’t you gonna guard me?’,” Bavetta explained in an interview with the Basketball Hall of Fame. “Finally it got too much and I see them choking each other, and a melee ensues. I learned from my brother Joe that if you can’t stop something before it starts, step back and take license plate numbers. So I just stepped back and watched what was going on. And in doing so, I informed [the scorer’s table] that Bird and Erving were gone.”

Bavetta went to say that that decision gave him a reputation around the league, and the front office started looking at him differently. 

“I remember the comments by both teams were, ‘Maybe a lesser-experienced official would have called a technical and kept both of them in the game. Whatever possessed Dick Bavetta to do it, it was the right thing to do,'” Bavetta explained to USA Today. “That was kind of a launching pad for my career, and the NBA started to look at me a little differently with certain leadership qualities.”

That brawl is still a big story in the NBA. Fans saw several legends going at it, throwing hands no matter who they caught. It was a crazy sequence, but Dick knew he had to make a big decision. In the end, it worked out for him. 

Larry showed he was ruthless again, but Dr. J wasn't having any of that. Curiously, Bird claimed he never said a thing to the New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers legend, but this story says the opposite. Still, Bird and Erving always had good things to say about each other, and that's what really matters. The respect off the court is always there, but that doesn't mean they weren't competitive on the floor.