Larry Bird's Indiana Pacers were one of two teams that pushed Michael Jordan to the edge.
embarked on his shortlived head coaching career in 1997 and immediately led his hometown team, the to the top of the East. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds the moment you remember that and his were around. Having faced Jordan as a player, Bird had some key words of advice for his players.
Jordan entered the league when Larry Bird was right in his prime. MJ hit his prime as Bird was on the tail-end of his career. And so, in a strange way, Bird saw Jordan grow over the years. And this included not just the development of physical gifts but the strengthening of his mental fortitude.
Reporters were curious how Bird intended to use this knowledge against Jordan, this time as a head coach of a basketball team. His answer perfectly summarized Jordan’s abilities, especially in the clutch.
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Bird uttered those words when he was named head coach of the Pacers. He had not coached the team yet in a high-octane environment. But Bird knew what he was talking about. He guided the Pacers to a 58-24 record in his first season as head coach. He would lead his team to the Eastern Conference Finals against Jordan’s mighty Bulls.
Bird’s players took his words to heart. Yes, they didn’t win, but they stretched the series to a Game 7. It was only the Bulls’ second series that extended to a Game 7 during their back-to-back 3-peats. The first one was the 1992 Conference Semifinals against the New York Knicks.
Another consolation prize is that they got Jordan’s stamp of approval. In “,” Jordan named the Pacers one of the toughest teams he’s faced.
“” Jordan said.
Since Jordan and Bird were good friends, they met up backstage right after their series ended; also seen in “The Last Dance” is their heartwarming embrace.