David Lee: The Contemporary Larry Bird?

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David Lee: The Contemporary Larry Bird?
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

After a 1987 NBA playoff game between the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons, Dennis Rodman made the comment that “Larry Bird was overrated because he was white in a league full of black players.”

When asked about Rodman’s statement, Isiah Thomas responded, “I think Larry is a very, very good basketball player.  He’s an exceptional talent, but I have to agree with Rodman. If he were black, he’d be just another good guy.”

In retrospect, Rodman’s statement seems way off, but it’s true that Larry Legend was a bit of an anomaly. He flourished in the NBA like no other Caucasian before or after.

Bird was one of the best to ever play the game and certainly the best American-born Caucasian to suit up in the NBA, with Mr. “Tight Shorts” John Stockton second on the list. Super old-school readers may throw out the name George Mikan as well.

But what about today?

Plenty of white guys not from the states are having huge success. Spain’s Pau Gasol just won an NBA title, Canada’s Steve Nash is a two-time NBA MVP, and Dirk Nowitzki from Germany is one of the better offensive players in the league.

But what about domestic born Caucasians?

We still have a media that wants to compare any good white player to Larry Legend the same way they tried to crown Harold Miner, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, and others the “next Jordan.”

Remember when they were calling Adam Morrison the next Bird? I don’t ever remember Larry sitting at midcourt crying.

A bunch of Duke guys—Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Mike Dunleavy Jr.—at some point, by some so-called expert, were dubbed “the next Larry Bird” or “possessing Bird-like skills.”

Charles Barkley said about his 1992 Dream Team teammate, “the only thing Christian Laettner has in common with Larry Bird is they both pee standing up.”

Eric Piatkowski, Mike Miller, Wally Szczerbiak, Keith Van Horn are just some of the non-Dukies I think Sir Quotable would describe with similar, if not more demeaning, rhetoric. Like Laettner, they have been compared to the Celtics great, simply and foolishly because they're white.


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