Patrick Ewing Reflects on Dream Team Bond with Larry Bird Despite Initial Trash Talk

From heated exchanges to unexpected bonds at the Olympics.

by Abdullah Magsi
Patrick Ewing Reflects on Dream Team Bond with Larry Bird Despite Initial Trash Talk
© Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing, two titans of basketball, often found themselves at odds during their NBA careers. Their rivalry was fierce, with Bird's Celtics frequently clashing with Ewing's Knicks. Bird, known not just for his skill but for his sharp tongue, frequently engaged in verbal duels that intensified their on-court battles.

Yet, it was their unexpected friendship formed during the 1992 Olympics with the Dream Team that revealed a different dimension to their relationship. Despite Bird’s Boston Celtics often overshadowing Ewing’s New York Knicks in their direct confrontations winning 17 of the 21 regular-season games and five of the nine postseason matchups—Ewing always put up impressive numbers.

The 7-foot center averaged 25.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game, nearly mirroring Bird’s 25.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals. The real battle, however, was in the trash talk, where Bird frequently came out on top, much to Ewing's chagrin.

Their enmity was set aside during the Dream Team stint, where circumstances pushed them to interact beyond their usual competitive natures. This led to an unexpected camaraderie. Ewing shared on the Arsenio Hall Show how this relationship evolved: "Larry and I, we got very close during the Olympics.

At first, during New York against Boston, I used to hate him, 'cause he talked so much trash," Ewing confessed. "But once we finally got to sit down in a relaxed atmosphere, we got to be very good friends."

Rivalry to Respect

The Dream Team's environment was one of intense competition mixed with mutual respect, and Ewing and Bird’s evolving relationship epitomized this dynamic.

Bird’s trash talk, a hallmark of his playing style, continued even in friendly settings. Ewing recounted moments when Bird would challenge him aggressively, saying things like, "You better sit down, you going to pop your arm out of your socket before you get this," which drew laughter and a deeper respect from Ewing.

This transformation from rivals to friends highlights an important aspect of sportsmanship: the line between personal and professional is not only fine but often blurred by the heat of competition. Their reconciliation, forged during a historic gathering of basketball's finest, showcased that beneath the competitive fervor lay a profound respect, ultimately leading to a lasting friendship.

This story not only captivates fans but also underscores the complex, multifaceted nature of relationships within professional sports.