"In Rocky IV, two white guys compete for the heavyweight championship. Man, that Spielberg is something else!"
- Chris Rock
In honor of my recent post about how Dirk Nowitzki is so not Larry Bird, I made like Mr. Wizard and performed a ground-breaking experiment. On Gamecube NBA Live 2006, I set up a 1-on-1 game pitting 80's Legends' Larry against the Mavs' Dirk. The game would be by ones, first to eleven, win by two.
The theatre for this epic battle would be a miraculously clean New York City basketball court, with various lazy looking, moderately interested street thugs watching from the sidelines. To ensure that my bias in favor of Larry Bird would not influence the results, I set up both players as CPU. This would allow the computer to play itself, like the Joshua / WOPR super computer playing tic-tac-toe in War Games. The result, of course, would be an accurate, indisputable representation of how this historic battle would play out...
...but not at first.
Nowitzki won Game 1, stroking a two-pointer to win, 14-12. Honestly, I'm thinking this first game was an aberration -- digital Larry clearly wasn't taking Nowitzki seriously. He had that "I'm friggin' Larry Bird. I'm gonna whip your ass" look on his face throughout the game. After Dirk's victory, however, Larry got serious.
In the post-game interview, Larry said, "I played like a woman. Until I get my heart in the right place, I'm in trouble." Deeply affected by his own wiley psychological warfare, Bird assumed an air of determination...
...which would have been irrelevant had I not decided to make it two out of three.
Perhaps the most critical part of any game (or Rocky fight): The Staredown
Once Larry got serious, it was all over for Dirk. Larry dug deep, coming up with an astonishing array of sky jams that had never been a part of his professional career repertiore.
Ah, remember the days when Larry used to sky
gracefully like this? Okay, I don't either.
Bird somehow went all Jordanesque on Dirk's ass. The one
accurately programmed player attribute? Dirk's inept defense
Stop messin' with the wanna-be, Larry. I mean, a
no-look dunk? Now you're just being an asshole.
Needless to say, Larry ran away the next two games, sparing me the need to make it three out of five.
Like the Miami Heat, Larry Bird overcame an initial setback, and proceeded to bitch-slap Nowitzki into submission.
There was one truly great, defining moment in these two final games. Here I was, thinking that Larry would be at a disadvantage because he could not utilize one of his greatest weapons -- the pass. But as usual, Larry Legend was full of surprises. In one magnificent play, Larry stole the ball from Nowitzki, cleared it, froze Dirk with a fake pass to...uhm...nobody...then stroked a jumper over his dumbstruck opponent.
I can almost hear legendary Celtics announcer Johnny Most
screaming from the grave: "Bird stole the ball!"
The quintessential genius of Larry -- faking a pass in one-on-one.
The glorious hilarity of this play is best enjoyed in video. Fortunately, I managed to capture it for your viewing pleasure. Note in the video how the pass freezes Dirk, giving Larry just enough spacing to stroke his patented jumper.
As a final confirmation that Larry is head and shoulders above Dirk, I submit the following: after a dunk, digital Dirk said, and I quote: "I've got more moves than a boy band." This may be the single gayest thing ever said on a basketball court, and for that alone, Dirk falls down another rung on the respect ladder (the first rung being for his unnatural fondness of David Hasselhoff). Neither those words, nor any combination of them, would ever come out of the real OR digital Larry's mouth. In fact, I imagine Larry would take a break from his busy GM schedule to visit EA headquarters and smash a few heads if he learned that any programmer ever caused his pixelated self to say something so utterly uncool.
So there you have it, a completely one-sided chronicle of the historic matchup between Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki. I can confidently say that these digital games have proven just what I predicted they would prove: absolutely nothing.