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Larry Bird beat J.R. Smith to shoelace stunt

Jan 13, 2014, 8:18 PM EDT

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics Getty Images

J.R. Smith was put through the ringer last week for untying Dwight Howard’s shoe, untying Shawn Marion’s shoe and gesturing to untie Greg Monroe’s shoe.

Smith was fined, benched, told to grow up by his coach and shamed by the NBA’s most powerful writer.

So why didn’t Larry Bird get the same treatment after his matchup with Chuck Person in the 1991 playoffs? Jack McCallum’s “Unfinished Business,” as excerpted by Billy Haisley on Deadspin:

Bird and Person continued their personal battle. At one point when Bird was out of the game and lying on his towel in front of the bench, he reached over and untied Person’s shoelaces as the Pacer waited for a free throw at the other end.

Bird is a relentless competitor who will seek any edge.

Smith is a clown who doesn’t play the game the right way.

The characterizations were written long before either player untied an opponent’s shoe. The facts were just fit into the narrative in support of the already-established script.

It’s hypocritical.

Anyone who slammed Smith should either accept they overreacted or assess Bird similarly for this act. A difference in eras does not justify one and not the other.

Bird and Smith are obviously not the same and do not deserve the same reputations.

But for how they handled these specific cases, they deserve the same scrutiny.

  1. paleihe - Jan 13, 2014 at 8:48 PM

    People blew the entire thing out of proportion. Give him a tech and call it a day.

    A 50k fine is absolutely ridiculous.

    • fanofthegame79 - Jan 13, 2014 at 9:20 PM

      I agree. I said on here last week that this was done before. I’m glad someone took the time to point this out.

      • troycruz29 - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:32 PM

        have you two ever played basketball? it wasn’t exaggerated he deserve it for doing it and trying to do that stupid thing again. this kind of stupid act can hurt people, can cause injury, if it went unnoticed. specially with wooden floor and competitive and physical games.

  2. savvybynature - Jan 13, 2014 at 9:22 PM

    It was blown out of proportion but you answered your own question in the article:
    “Bird is a relentless competitor who will seek any edge.Smith is a clown”
    Bird really was a relentless competitor, and Smith really is a clown (tweeting booty pics, insisting the team employ his brother in the D-League, going out and partying really late before games, smoking weed, etc., etc.).
    That’s why the reactions were different. It’s not hypocritical to react to two different people two different ways. Do you react differently to controversial jokes made by a comedian as opposed to say, your boss? Or a politician? I do, and don’t think that makes me a hypocrite.

    • strictlythedanks - Jan 13, 2014 at 9:38 PM

      Smoking weed doesnt have anything to do with him being a clown, you clown.

      • savvybynature - Jan 15, 2014 at 6:37 PM

        When it causes you to be suspended from your team because you ran afoul of the league drug policy, then it makes you a clown.
        I’m not saying it makes him a bad person, but he is getting paid $6 mil/year to play basketball for the Knicks, and he can’t do that if he is suspended. The rules are the rules like them or not. He let his teammates and family down by getting suspended, period.

  3. uscoach - Jan 13, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    Smith was asked to stop by the league — and then went out right away and did it again! That’s just dumb. And a completely different situation than Bird’s situation.

    • casualcommenter - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:48 PM


      The fine, as reported by this site, was due to *repeated* violations. The NBA said that specifically.

      The NBA was prepared to let it go if he stopped, but he didn’t.

  4. therooneyskilledwebster - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:24 PM

    Larry Joe Bird. Earl Snith III. ‘Nuff said.

  5. fearthehoody - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    Slow news day

  6. Punk - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:04 PM

    No, you cannot treat the cases the same because actions do not happen alone. The entire person, history, reputation goes into every judgement.

  7. metalhead65 - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    the fact you even mention this clown in the same sentence as Larry Bird is sad and you should immediately stop reporting on basketball and get a real job.

  8. antistratfordian - Jan 14, 2014 at 12:05 AM


  9. tdl8 - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    Lakers fan here that absolutely hates Larry Bird and everything Boston!! But I have to question the quote.. if Bird was lying on the floor in front of the bench with the back issues he had late in his career.. how did he reach over and untie a shoelace of ANY player that was waiting for a free throw rebound?! No player in the history of bball stands in front of the opposing teams bench during FTs! I call BS on this!

    • kordell70 - Jan 15, 2014 at 4:19 PM

      Your comment is just plain 100% wrong and makes me think you have not played very competitive ball. (1) In either half of the game free throws will be shot on the side of the court where the opposing team sits. In one half the opponent will shoot free throws on that side and in the other half your team will. YOU ALMOST ALWAYS in a competitive game plant your PG of SG right up the to sideline of your opponents during the first free throw if two are shot. This is an extremely old tactic which goes back to the 50s and 60s. It is so you make it harder for the opposing coach to give instructions to their guards on the sideline without you hearing is. So to correct you almost EVERY TEAM sends a player to the opposing team’s sideline when two free throws, and sometimes even when only one is shot (although less often). So don’t call BS on this when it has been done for decades.

      • tdl8 - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:45 AM

        AND your comment makes you sound like a complete fool! You obviously don’t know what you are talking about for a few reasons:
        (1) From Free Throw rules(Googled it): A player who does not occupy a free throw lane space must remain behind the shooter above the three-point line. So according to NBA rules you are WRONG! A player cannot go stand in front of the bench!
        (2) NO coach has their PG or SG stand in front of the opposing teams bench down in the corner near the baseline where Bird would have been lying so he is out of the way of the coach and players on the bench! Do you really think he would be lying down towards the scorers table end of the bench so he would be in the way?!?! Get a clue!
        (3) If you were such a bball expert and bball historian you would know that Chuck Person played Small Forward not PG or SG so he wouldn’t be standing in front of the bench even if what you said had one ounce of truth to it(or was within the rules)! He would have been lined up in one of the lane spaces to get the rebound!

  10. louhudson23 - Jan 14, 2014 at 4:45 AM

    Once is funny,twice is not? Smith is a repeat fool,Bird is a repeat MVP? As for race,the list of people of color who are not fools is too long to recite….and the list of caucasians who are fools is at minimum, equally as long….

  11. trickybastard - Jan 14, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    It’s not hypocritical at all. You are judged by your life’s work and by your character. Two people can commit the same act and have totally different outcomes. This is life!

    • kordell70 - Jan 15, 2014 at 4:22 PM

      Yeah, I know in reality we always judge people differently for doing the same act, but it is not like Bird was a choir boy. Bird had an out of wedlock child whom he never took care of, got into more fights in the 80s than all but 3 players, was a consummate trash talker and known to be one of the best at it, made some off the wall comments during interviews. Difference was people let more go in the 80s and allowed players to get away with more as the media scrutiny was a lot less and news traveled a lot slower.

      • trickybastard - Jan 17, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        You talk in absolutes but fail to mention the perception of the coach and that’s where it truly mattered. Larry Bird was a championship builder. Without it we would have never heard of “Jordan Rules”. When players of this stature bring fortune to organizations through winning, they have a different set of rules. And they should. Life is unfair.

  12. saint1997 - Jan 14, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    I never saw that Woj article until now but wow that is scathing! Read it if you haven’t guys, brings an interesting perspective to a man who really often has been given the benefit of the doubt by manipulating people and their own guilt

  13. louhudson23 - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Deadspin=Twitter=Brain dead

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