When you look at players who helped to propel the popularity of the game of basketball, few players have done it in the way that Michael Jordan and Larry Bird have.  Larry Bird and the Celtics had a fierce and intense rivalry with Magic Johnson and the Lakers in the 1980s.  This rivalry helped to make the game of basketball popular.  After that, Michael Jordan would build on what the Celtics/Lakers rivalry established.  He took the game to new heights and new levels of popularity.  Basketball merchandise sales went through the roof.  Secondary Basketball items such as basketball backpacks became a thing . 

In this piece, we will compare and contrast the careers of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. 

The careers of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird have had many parallels.  First of all, both Jordan and Bird took the league by storm in their rookie years.  As a result, both Jordan and Bird both earned "Rookie of the Year" honors in their 1st year in the NBA.  

Not surprisingly, Jordan and Bird's are synonymous due to their frequent amount of playoff appearances.  In 15 seasons, Michael Jordan made the playoffs 13 times while Larry Bird made the playoffs 12 times in 13 seasons.  

Both individuals made the All-Star Game over 10 times.   Additionally, Jordan and Bird were  both selected to All-NBA teams at least 10 times in their careers.   Interestingly enough, both individuals has a career FG percentage of 49%. 

Now let's take a look at how the careers of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird differed.  

It was clear that Michael Jordan was a better scorer as opposed to Bird.  He averaged 30.1 PPG over his career compared to Larry Bird's 24.3 PPG.  While Larry Bird didn't win any scoring titles, Michael Jordan was a 10-time NBA scoring champion. 

However, Michael Jordan did not outpace Larry Bird in every aspect of scoring in the NBA.  Larry Bird shot 88.6% from the free throw line compared to Michael Jordan's 83.5%.  Additionally, Larry Bird shot 37.6% from the three point line compared to Jordan's 


Larry Bird was also a better rebounder.  He averaged 10.0 rebounds compared to Jordan's 6.2. 

Jordan outpaced Larry Bird in terms of defensive accolades.   He was named to the All-Defensive Team nine times while Larry Bird was only named 3 times. 

Jordan would also outperform Larry Bird in terms of MVPs and NBA Championships.  Michael Jordan won 5 MVPs and 6 NBA Championships while Larry Bird won 3 MVPS and 3 NBA Championships. 

June 27, 2023 — Jeremiah Oglesby