Michael Jordan had to overcome various obstacles before establishing himself as an NBA legend. One significant challenge he faced was the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics. It wasn't until the 1990-91 season that Jordan's Chicago Bulls finally conquered their postseason roadblock by defeating the Detroit Pistons and claiming their first-ever NBA championship. However, before dethroning the "Bad Boys," Jordan had to contend with Bird's Celtics.
Upon learning about Bird's retirement in 1992, Jordan shared his ultimate respect for his former Team USA teammate. However, he also admitted feeling glad not to have to face Bird anymore, saying, "I'm tired of seeing your face." Jordan attributed many sad memories to Bird, who had adversely affected his successful games against the Celtics.
During their encounters in the regular season, Bird and Jordan played against each other 28 times. Bird emerged victorious in 17 games, while Jordan won 11 contests. Both players exhibited exceptional performances, with Jordan averaging 33.5 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while Bird contributed 27 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists.
In the postseason, Jordan and Bird faced each other in six games. Although Jordan never won a playoff game against Bird, he delivered remarkable performances that hinted at his future greatness. Against Bird, Jordan averaged an impressive 39.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. Meanwhile, Bird maintained averages of 27.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 8.5 assists when playing against Jordan.
One standout moment in their rivalry occurred during Game 2 of the 1986 NBA playoffs. Despite losing the game and ultimately the series, Jordan etched his name in history by setting the record for the highest-scoring performance in postseason history. He scored an astounding 63 points, accompanied by five rebounds and six assists. Bird himself praised Jordan's exceptional display, stating, "It's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."
Following Jordan's first NBA title win in 1991, he began to receive widespread recognition as the best player alive. However, it was not until the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona that Bird acknowledged the start of the Michael Jordan era. Magic Johnson also had difficulty admitting this shift in dominance, but it became indisputable that Jordan was the best player in the world. The torch had been passed, marking a crucial point in basketball history.
Michael Jordan's retirement message to Larry Bird encapsulated their intense rivalry and the mutual respect they held for each other. While Jordan faced challenges against Bird's Celtics, he displayed moments of brilliance that solidified his status as one of the greatest players in NBA history. The passing of the torch from Bird to Jordan highlighted the beginning of a new era, with Jordan undeniably becoming the face of basketball during the 1992 Olympics.