Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird says the NBA lacks white superstars, and his sentiment seems echoed by fellow Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who is a Los Angeles Lakers co-owner and vice president.
In an interview for an ESPN special set to air at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jim Gray asks Bird: "Does the NBA lack enough white superstars in your opinion?"
"Well, I think so," Bird replies, according to an ESPN transcript. "You know when I played, you had me and Kevin (McHale) and some others throughout the league. I think it's good for a fan base because as we all know the majority of the fans are white America. And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited. But it is a black man's game, and it will be forever. I mean, the greatest athletes in the world are African-American."
Johnson then adds: "We need some more LB's, Larry Birds. I mean you know, you want that. Larry Bird, you see, can go into any neighborhood. When you say 'Larry Bird,' black people know who he is, Hispanics, whites, and they give him the respect."
Bird also says that when he was playing he "really got irritated" when a white player guarded him.
"I still don't understand why," he says. "I didn't care who guarded me -- red, yellow, black. I just didn't want a white guy guarding me, because it's disrespect to my game."
Bird on Tuesday declined to comment further, according to a Pacers spokesman.
Johnson was unavailable for comment. NBA commissioner David Stern declined to comment.
NBA officials said the league does not maintain a breakdown of players by race.
Spurred by ESPN executive vice president Mark Shapiro's promise of a prime-time show, Gray spent four months arranging Thursday's one-hour special.
He finally got the Hall of Famers and the rookie stars together for "Two On Two," which was taped May 28 at an old high school gym in Indiana.
Why was this even a question? This is why ESPN is crap.
Of course Bird should have answered with "What the hell differance does it make what color a player is" But, no.
Thank you Larry for further pushing along the Indiana stereotype. n:
Having a white player guard him was a disrespect to him? Actually it was a white player that disrespected his game & usually caused him the most problems by the name of Bobby Jones.