It made him real happy to call us soft and tell us that none of us would survive in the old NBA

  • 12.05.2023 16:12:33

Larry Legend kept his trash-talking prowess even after his playing days.

The legend of Larry Bird, his legacy as one of the best players in NBA history, and even more notoriously, as one of the biggest trash-talkers the game has ever seen, is something that will always be timeless in the NBA world.

In an exclusive interview with Damjan Rudez, a former NBA player and member of the Croatian National team, we got the chance to hear insight into how it felt to be on an NBA team with Larry as your president of basketball operations. As you can expect, even his players weren't safe from getting the smoke.

"Larry loved sharing his trash-talking stories because he was spending a lot of time with us in the training room as his back problems were catching up with him. It made him real happy to call us soft and tell us that none of us would survive in the old NBA [laughs]."

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Helping hand

Larry's tone was definitely different compared to the 80s' when he was getting into heated battles with some of the toughest dudes in the game. But keeping true to his persona, Bird had to slip a couple of jabs to his players to keep them on their toes. But it was all in good nature with a dose of humor.

"Still, he was truly charismatic. He had a towering presence, not just physically, and whenever he entered a room, everybody would get real quiet real quick...then he'd crack a joke, and people would literally be rolling on the floor laughing. He did give off an appearance of being always grim, but in fact, he was hilarious," Rudez added.

Having a legend of such magnitude around day in and day out played a huge role for Damjan and the rest of his young teammates, as they could pick his brain, ask for advice, and even get some first-hand mentoring.

"I'll never forget how he would talk to me a lot during or after practice and share some tips or further explain what was expected of me. He was very involved and really helped me a lot. Even on days off, I used to go get some shots up on my own, and a lot of times, he'd be there as well. True to his legend, he'd grab the ball even "

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Bird stayed true to himself since day one, and even post his playing days in the Pacers organization, serving successfully in various roles, from the head coaching position to being an executive, president of basketball operations, and advisor, Larry embodied the state of Indiana.

"This attitude embodies Indiana as a franchise and a state, their passion for basketball, the tradition. The fans are involved and devoted to the Pacers. Of course, these aspects were quite different in Minnesota and Orlando when I played there, so my entire experience of playing for these two teams was drastically different."

Damo's career path
Damjan Rudez might not be a name every NBA fan knows due to his unusual path to the league, going undrafted and eventually joining the Indiana Pacers in 2014 at the age of 28. But being a 6'10'' forward with a sweet jump shot, playing great basketball in Europe, Rudez got his chance, as Larry definitely saw the potential and perfect skill set for modern basketball.

Damjan would play for three seasons in the NBA, as his rookie season with Indiana proved to be the best one, averaging 4.8 ppg on 40.6% from deep. After that, Rudez would have one-season stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic before returning to Europe and finishing his basketball career there.

Even though he didn't get the chance to have a long NBA career, Rudez still made the dream of every basketball player and even got the chance to meet and learn from one of the best to ever do it in 'Larry Legend'.

basketballnetwork - Trevor Ruszkowski 

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