As the old saying goes, “The best offense is a good defense.” In hockey, this defense usually takes the form of a shutdown checking line or two. Teams that have great defensemen often have a shutdown checking line that doesn’t necessarily score a ton of goals, but does exactly what it’s supposed to do: keep the other team from scoring. This year, the Stars have found their shutdown line in Jason Spezza, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg. Spezza joined the Stars in the offseason, and has fit right into the shutdown line with his defensive ability and smooth skating.
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This past week, the San Jose Sharks activated defenseman Dennis Wideman from the injured reserve list, and he immediately rejoined the lineup. Upon his return, Wideman was immediately yanked out of the lineup after two games—something the team has become familiar with, as he has been a healthy scratch a total of 12 times this season.
Although he eventually became known for his extracurricular activities, Dennis Rodman first made a name for himself as a tenacious defender who was willing to do the dirty work on the field. However, as a newcomer to the NBA, he faced a serious challenge in the form of Larry Bird.
Defending one of the best offensive talents in basketball is hard enough, but Larry Legend was not one to take his opponents lightly. In fact, he taunted Rodman during their first meeting and even went so far as to ask Worm if he was a defender.
When you think of Larry Bird’s skills, his accuracy and overall offensive play probably come to mind. While these talents made him a living legend in the NBA, he was also capable of saying some unflattering things.
While it’s easy to see this chatter as teasing his opponent, Bird is not in the habit of mocking his opponents. Instead, his war of words focused on his own self-confidence. One of the hallmarks of the striker was telling the defender exactly how he was going to score and executing it.
In some cases, however, Larry Ledgend has gone further. For example, in the game against the Suns and the Celtics, it took two points to tie the game and send it to overtime. But Bird was not prepared to play for long that night. He told the Phoenix bench he was tired of playing against them, scored the winning three-pointer and headed to the locker room.
Even Mikael Jordan, one of the most combative men basketball has ever seen, appreciates Bird’s efforts. During Flight School Camp in 2015, he said the Celtics star was the best thrash storyteller he had ever met, stating that he goes for good thrash, but not dirty thrash.
Larry Bird (left) and Dennis Rodman (right) faced each other on the NBA’s hardcourt. | Tom Berg/WireImage and Andy Lyons/Allsport
During his professional career, Dennis Rodman has proven to be one of the toughest defenders in the world. However, as a newcomer, he was tested heavily by Larry Bird. The Celtics star not only put on an offensive show, but also made a few jokes to Worm in passing.
During an appearance on the podcast Basketball Time Machine, Rodman answered a question about the rivalry between the Celtics and the Pistons. Although the attacker admitted that he was unaware of the hate until he took on Boston, he did share an anecdote about that first game.
I didn’t know such a rivalry existed until I went to the first race in 1986-87 and did my best to get close to Larry Bird – it didn’t work out so well, he gave me a bit of an edge, Rodman said. The whole game – every game – he plays like that: Dennis, will you protect me? Take this for yourself. OK, I agree, Larry. I agree. I’ll take this one. He’ll take a picture and say: Dennis, do you like it? I said: You know what, man? To hell with you.
If you look online, there are also stories about Bird making comments to Pistons coach Chuck Daly suggesting that someone was defending him and developing the idea that the rookie was so ineffective that he might as well be on the sidelines. However, there is no evidence that this interaction ever took place.
According to Basketball-Reference’s game reports, Rodman’s first meeting with Byrd appears to have been in March 1987, as he was not on the court when the teams first met. Larry Legend scored 23 points in the Celtics’ victory, and with Worm coming off the bench for just 13 minutes, it was clear he would leave a lasting impression on his young opponent.
Early in his career, Rodman did not take this conversation lightly. In fact, at the end of the 1986-87 season, the starting striker attacked Bird in embarrassing fashion.
After the Celtics beat Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals, Rodman told the world what he thought of Larry Legend.
He’s not God, Rodman said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. He’s not the best player in the NBA, not to me. … It’s white. For this he won the MVP award. Nobody does Magic Johnson justice. He deserved it last year too. I don’t care. Come on, tell him. They’ll be talking about it in the papers anyway. Isaiah Thomas agreed, but insisted it was just a joke.
Unsurprisingly, Rodman’s business manager has asked the striker to apologise for his comments. Baird wasn’t too concerned about the whole saga, though.
Well, I’ve been in their dressing room after heavy defeats, Celtic told Mark J Spears of The Undefeated in 2019.
You can’t say what’s unofficially said in the heat of the moment. This sort of thing has never bothered me. Everyone will have an opinion, they will say what they say and you will continue to do your job. I remember someone coming up to me right after that match after talking to Ishii. But in reality, nothing serious happened.
As Michael Jordan noted, Larry Ledgend is full of crap. Dennis Rodman, on the other hand, has always preferred to play by his own rules.
statistics provided by Basketball-Reference
COMPARED TO: Larry Bird made $24 million playing basketball, but the fun came from the easiest source: Nothing has changed
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