Larry Bird Felt Disrespected Pistons Used White Players To Guard Him, Says Isiah Thomas

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Larry Bird wasn’t a fan of the Detroit Pistons using white guys to lock him up.

Bird was a dominant player for more than a decade in the NBA, and plenty of guys have debated over beers at the bar whether or not he’s the greatest white player in league history. The former Boston Celtics forward was silk smooth and had no problem chopping up defenses on his way to winning three titles.

Apparently, he felt he was so dominant that he only wanted black players to guard him. Anything less was viewed by Bird as a sign of disrespect, fellow NBA legend Isiah Thomas revealed on the “All The Smoke.”

Larry Bird was insulted by white guys guarding him. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Larry Bird wanted to be guarded by black opponents.

When the Detroit Pistons rolled out an all-white front court, Bird was less than impressed. He treated it as a slap in the face.

“He said, ‘Hey man, you can’t put no white dude on me. That is straight disrespect. Don’t put no white dude on me.’ So, check this out. The next year we come back, and I said, ‘We got somebody for your ass.’ He said, ‘Who you got?’ I said, ‘Rodman,” Thomas explained as he fought back laughter.


Zeke had to bring in the reinforcements to guard Larry Legend 🤣 Episode 176 with Isiah Thomas is premiering NOW on our YouTube 💨 #nba #basketball #isiahthomas #larrybird #dennisrodman #pistons #celtics #nbahistory #allthesmoke

♬ original sound – SHOWTIME Basketball

The legend of Bird grows.

The fact Bird was insulted if he wasn’t guarded by black players is honestly pretty damn funny, and it’s not surprising at all.

Bird was known for being an in your face player with a ton of grit in his stomach. He wasn’t the kind of dude you could just push around.

The legendary Indiana State forward was unstoppable for pretty much his entire career. He was also probably the greatest American-born white player ever.

Jerry West or Pete Maravich could maybe be put in that conversation, but Bird won three rings. Along with Magic Johnson, he was one of the main faces of the league for years. And apparently, you better have some “brothers” (Thomas’ words, not mine) to guard him or he’s not going to be happy.

Larry Bird viewed being guarded by white players as a sign of disrespect. (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

In case you’re wondering just how badly Bird cooked the Pistons, in his career he played Detroit 53 times and averaged 25 points per game and 10.3 rebounds. Whether white or black players were guarding him, it didn’t seem to make a difference against Detroit. He tore them to shreds just about every time they were on the court.

In his career, Bird averaged 24.3 points a game and 10 rebounds. He very literally did better against the Pistons than the average NBA squad. Maybe, he was onto something with his comments to Thomas.

Larry Bird didn’t like being guarded by white players. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Now, we can look back at Bird’s comments and laugh. If a player made any comment about race in 2023, the league would burn to the ground. Fortunately, it was a much simpler time back then when Bird was dominating the NBA winning rings.

Written by David Hookstead

David Hookstead is a reporter for OutKick covering a variety of topics with a focus on football and culture.

He also hosts of the podcast American Joyride that is accessible on Outkick where he interviews American heroes and outlines their unique stories. Before joining OutKick, Hookstead worked for the Daily Caller for seven years covering similar topics.

Hookstead is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.