The Iconic Rivalry: Larry Bird vs Julius Erving in the NBA

In the NBA There are rivalries that are difficult to forget. And one of them was the one they starred in Larry Bird y Julius Erving. The Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers already had their history between franchises, but they were in charge of adding another incentive to the story. Beyond the anecdotes that both cities brought with them, the two stars starred in memorable duels throughout the 1980s.

We have to look back to begin to explain how the rivalry between the city of Boston and Philadelphia was created. In 1965 and after the incorporation of Wilt Chamberlainthe bustling interior has already begun to have its ups and downs with the Celtics and with Bill Russell. The numerous encounters in the Conference Finals between both franchises began an incomparable rivalry over time.

Larry Bird was going to have another great and fierce rivalry in the NBA: he received Julius Erving who completed 21.6 points per game in his first campaign (1976-77). The competition between the Celtics forward and Magic Johnson, who played for the Lakers, made the duels between Bird and Erving somewhat overshadowed. Despite this, Julius Erving, the legendary Dr. J, would have a more direct rivalry with Larry Bird, since they usually paired up in matches sharing the same position on the hardwood.

Larry Bird throws against Julius Erving’s opposition


Smoke rose from every battle wrought on the track between Erving and Bird. If the Celtics forward wanted to challenge himself with his beloved Magic in the Finals, he would first have to pass the center test. And he didn’t always approve of her. They faced each other in four Eastern Finals between 1980 and 1985, with two wins for the Sixers and another two for the Celtics. Either Erving or Bird made it to the finals.

Today, in playoff time, we remember the few times that a team has managed to overcome a 1-3 deficit. One of those comebacks was carried out by Bird’s Boston Celtics against Erving’s Philadelphia Sixers (1980-81). It was Bird’s second year in the NBA and, despite Dr. J taking the season’s MVP trophy, it was the Celtics who won the ring.

The rivalry gradually grew final after final and continued the following season. The Sixers took the personal revenge and won Game 7 of the Conference Finals against the Celtics at the Garden. The game nights between both teams were intense, of course. Fights became commonplace. The best players in the league ended up beaten.

Was the November 9, 1984, in a regular league clash and with both teams undefeated, where the competition between the two legends became more. It started with a hard foul and, in a matter of seconds, it transformed into a historic battle turned into one of the most violent fights of American basketball.

Individually, Bird was destroying Dr. J. The Celtics player had 42 points, while the Sixers forward did not exceed 6. Larry Bird took trash-talking to the next level. He was provoking Dr. J throughout the entire meeting. Until Julius and Larry got into a fistfight with a special guest: the young man Charles Barkley, who was in charge of restraining the Celtics player. Dick Bavettathe referee of the match, revealed what Larry Bird said to Erving minutes before the infamous fight: “Aren’t you going to defend me?”

Erving decided to elbow Larry and sent him to the ground. The two benches took to the court. The Celtics star decided to grab Dr. J and Barkley by the neck and Moses Malone They appeared on the scene. “I see them suffocate each other and a tumult ensues. I stepped back and watched what was happening. Then, I reported that Bird and Erving were sent off,” said the referee.

The Celtics won that game 130-119, but the fight lasted until $30,500 in fines. Logically, Larry Bird and Julius Erving were the players who received the biggest punishment of all those present, fined $7,500. Moses Malone was fined 3,500 and Charles Barkley 1,000 for his role in the violent battle.

“I thought he was going to hit me, I really thought so, so I acted, I just tried to keep it at bay, I had my hand at that height of the chest, and I think my hand slid a little over his neck,” Erving defined the action. “Then he walks over, and the next thing I remember he grabbed my neck. I don’t even know what happened. “All I know is that they expelled me from the game, that they also expelled Bird and fined us,” he explained.

Outside of the extra-sports, the historic one-on-one matches between both stars led to unrepeatable duels in the history of the league. And that evidently translated into successes for the city of Boston and Philadelphia. The eyes of the fans did not lose sight of either of the two, with the possibility of conflict between the two every time they saw each other’s faces.

The iconic photo of the fight between Bird and Erving


The results were always very even. Of the 44 meetings that were played between them in the regular season, 23 victories were for Boston while the other 21 were for Philadelphia. In the playoffs, the equality was even greater. 12 wins for each player in the 24 games they faced each other.

Despite the fights that broke out in the middle of the game, Erving and Bird always had a relationship of mutual respect off the court. “Larry and I had a legitimate rivalry. It was always tough, you know, playing against them because it seemed like they were next in line, and they wanted to force me out because I was the reigning small forward in the league,” Julius Erving stressed.

The admiration between the Boston legend and the Philadelphia legend made them perform at the top of their levels. Restless nights, even matches and divided finals. The rivalry that Larry Bird had with Magic Johnson clouded the existing and fierce competition that existed between the Celtics player and the legendary Dr. J, two masters of the game in an unparalleled duel.

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2024-05-18 13:00:00
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