After all the hoopla about the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson fight in 1988, Julius Erving came out and said that the incident was more hype than substance. So, what’s the real story? According to Julius, the fight was more hype than substance. When asked by Sports Illustrated why he didn’t play along with the hype, Julius said, “What did Larry Bird do in the game? There was a lot of hype, but just because the movie was made and all the excitement, I didn’t think it should be taken seriously.”
The night before Larry Bird got into a fist fight with Julius Erving, he told the media he didn’t want to fight him. Bird would later admit that he was in fact worried about the fight happening, and the reason why he said that was because he knew the fight had not been properly worked out as the two had previously been discussing the terms of the fight.
Larry Bird vs. Julius Erving. So, what does anyone remember about this famous basketball fight that took place in 1987? Well, most of us have heard that it was the most overhyped altercation in NBA history (which, in a way, is true). What, however, no one knows is the reason for the fight, because, as it turns out, it wasn’t even about a foul.
Larry Bird’s age is unknown. People have been talking about a brawl involving the Boston Celtics great without knowing the whole facts for more than half his life. Perhaps now that the other fighter has dropped a tidbit about how insignificant the brawl between two future Hall of Famers was, folks will leave it go.
Because rivals fight, Larry Bird and Julius Erving battled.
Julius Erving of the Philadelphia 76ers guards Boston Celtics center Larry Bird during a game at The Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1990. | Getty Images/Focus on Sport
A battle between Julius Erving and Larry Bird couldn’t compare to Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier in terms of entertainment value. However, in terms of sheer name recognition in NBA circles, that’s probably as good as it gets.
Bird was in his sixth professional season and had previously led the Celtics to two league titles while averaging 38 minutes per game. Erving was in his 14th pro season and had established himself as a three-time scoring champion in the ABA.
The Celtics and 76ers have had a rivalry going back to the days when Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain fought it out in the paint. In his debut season, Erving helped the 76ers defeat Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference playoffs. In 1980, Bird’s first season, the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Boston Celtics in five games.
The rivalry was reignited in the next two seasons. Both occasions, the Eastern Conference finals lasted seven games, with Boston winning in 1981 and Philadelphia winning in 1982.
The fact that they played each other so often throughout the regular season as divisional rivals just added to the tension. Three fights broke out in a regular-season game between the Sixers and the Celtics the year before. As a result, when competitors with perfect records met in Boston 10 days into the new season, excitement was naturally high.
Julius Erving discusses how insignificant his battle with Larry Bird was.
On November 9, 1984, Bird and Erving were as different as night and day. Bird scored 42 points while shooting 17 of 23 from the field and adding seven rebounds and three assists. In a 130-119 defeat, Erving was 3 of 13 from the field and ended with six points.
Bird was called for an offensive foul late in the game for seeming to throw an elbow at Erving. As Charles Barkley attempted to hold the Boston star, Erving began swinging at him.
There were no injuries and the battle was finished in a couple of seconds. Though some may have thought that impatience sparked the brawl, Erving subsequently stated that he attempted to prevent Bird from attacking the referee who had given the foul. He said that his hands moved up Bird’s torso to his neck, causing an already enraged Bird to respond.
Fans prefer to conceive of it as genuine animosity between Bird and Erving to this day. People believed the two must have had a history because of their brilliance and the competition between their teams, and that the animosity of that night could have lasted until Dr. J retired in 1987.
In fact, any resentment evaporated within hours, as Erving revealed on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz this week.
“I don’t discuss that.” Erving stated of claimed resentment, “He doesn’t speak about it.” “It vanished as soon as it occurred. The following day, we shot a Converse ad in Boston.
“People attempt to keep it alive as if it were a major event, but it isn’t.”
Charles Barkley was fined by the NBA for his involvement.
Bird and Erving were expelled that night, and the brawl cost them each $7,500, which was a lot of money in 1984. According to the New York Times, they were the second-largest penalties for player misbehavior in NBA history at the time.
Charles Barkley, a 21-year-old rookie at the time, is the most enraged about the whole thing to this day.
He told NBC Sports, “I’ll never forgive the NBA for fining me.” “They punished me because they said I was holding Larry Bird to beat him with Dr. J. I was attempting to break up the brawl…. I was fined by the NBA. It truly irritated me.
“To this day, they owe me money.”
Bird and Erving could have easily paid for it with the money they earned the following day while filming their commercial.
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In the beginning of the 1984 NBA All-Star Game, the 76ers were up by 1 when Larry Bird got ejected from the game. After that, the Lakers raced out to a 39-point lead, and it appeared they were well on their way to an easy win. But then Larry had to go and get himself thrown out. Julius Erving then took over, and the Sixers stormed back to win the game, 122-117.. Read more about when did larry bird retire and let us know what you think.
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