Boston Celtics

Dennis Rodman says Larry Bird would play in Europe, not NBA, in modern era

Bird was a 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion who shot 37.6 percent from three during his career

Larry Bird and Dennis Rodman
Manny Millan /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird is defended by the Detroit Pistons’ Dennis Rodman at Boston Garden during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Imagine Larry Bird playing in the modern NBA that puts a premium on outside shooting.

Dennis Rodman can't.

He said Bird wouldn't be in the league ... or even in the country.

“If Larry Bird played in this era, I think he’d be in Europe,” Rodman said during an interview with VladTV. “I’m just letting you know, man. He’d be somewhere over there. His game was fit for Boston at that time in the 80s and stuff like that. Today’s world, oh hell no, there’s no way. I’m not downplaying him because he was a great player at that time, just like I was, but I’m saying no, there’s no way.”

So, Bird, a 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion who shot 37.6 percent from deep during his career, would be playing overseas in present day?

Rodman might argue that the modern game has become to fast, versatile and athletic for the 6-foot-9 Bird, known more for his shooting prowess and basketball IQ than his running and jumping ability. 

But Bird was the founding member of the NBA's 50-40-90 club, shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line in one season. And he's one of only three players to do so on multiple occasions.

Pretty sure one of today's 30 NBA teams would take a chance on him.

The 3-point line was adopted by the NBA during Bird's rookie season in 1979. Even as one of the greatest shooters of his generation, Bird attempted just 1.9 threes per game during his 13-year NBA career, a total that in today's game is less than many starting centers.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, a two-time MVP who captured his first NBA title this season, has shot 34.8 percent on 2.9 three-point attempts per game in his career. Like Bird, he boasts an elite all-around skill set that is not built on athleticism.

"He's slow as hell. He plays slow, but that guy got a game," Rodman said of Jokic. "I think he's better than Larry Bird, I mean, in this day and age, yeah. I'm saying he can shoot that three like woosh, my God. So, wow. Compare him to Larry Bird, I think people pick him."

Rodman, who was selected in the second round of the 1986 draft, criticized Bird after the Pistons lost to the Celtics in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, saying Bird was only celebrated because he's white. 

"I was green. I was just saying anything," Rodman told VladTV of his past comments. "I was frustrated because - guess what? - I got my a** whooped by this kid. That's why I probably said something then. Not because I was angry or hatred or something like that. No, it just came out like that. Because I really wasn't paying attention to the whole league, I was just paying attention to my team and stuff like that, and I was just wondering why is this guy so good? Or what I call it, great.

"I think I woulda said the same thing about if he was Black. I think I would have said the same thing, I would have said something in a different direction, but it so happened to be Larry Bird. I apologized many, many times over. That's history."

Both Bird and Rodman were Hall of Fame players, albeit for very different reasons. Rodman was a seven-time first-team All-Defensive selection who led the league in rebounding for seven straight seasons. He was an agitator, but key role player, on five championship teams, winning two titles with the Detroit Pistons and three with the Chicago Bulls.

But he was an offensive liability who averaged 7.3 points on 5.8 field goal attempts per game in his career.

So, if Bird is playing in Europe, where exactly does that leave Rodman?

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