Kevin McHale Compares Bird, Magic, and Jordan's Game Control

Kevin McHale on Bird, Magic, and Jordan's impact

by Nouman Rasool
Kevin McHale Compares Bird, Magic, and Jordan's Game Control
© Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Many think Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson were three of the greatest basketball players ever. Kevin McHale, a Hall of Fame member of the Boston Celtics, should know something about it since he played in their time.

McHale, who won three championships with Bird and battled Jordan and Johnson during a Hall of Fame NBA career, recently offered his perspective on what set these legends apart from one another. He explained how Bird and Magic could sometimes take over games without having to score very much:.

"Here's the difference between those guys, and I saw it many, many times," McHale said. "Larry and Magic could control the game by taking just ten shots. They'd have 17 points, 15 rebounds, 12 assists, and four steals. But if you got Michael Jordan to take ten shots, you controlled him." While many proclaim Jordan to be the greatest player ever, much of his value came Strictly from unparalleled scoring.

Over the course of his 15-year NBA career, MJ had been a ten-time scoring champion and retired with the highest playoff scoring average in league history. Jordan was an incomparable scorer, but his all-around game wasn't as comprehensive as Bird's or Magic's.

Bird and Magic's Versatility

Larry Bird had an average of 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game throughout his career, which indeed showed that he was a versatile player. Magic Johnson had outstanding court vision and averaged 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game.

By comparison, Jordan's statistics were 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. Such versatility is what places Magic right behind the all-time leaders on the NBA's triple-double list with 138 triple-doubles, while Bird rounds out the top ten with 59.

Even in more games, Jordan managed a total of 28 career triple-doubles, well below the triple-double total compiled by both Magic and Bird, in large part due to the different roles each filled for his respective team. However, these numbers don't diminish Jordan's greatness.

He didn't have to do what Magic and Bird were called upon to do. His coach with Chicago, Phil Jackson, once explained the difference while comparing MJ to Kobe Bryant. "I never asked Michael to be a playmaker," Jackson said.

"That's the greatest player that I've ever had, and I never asked him to be a playmaker in those terms. I asked him to be a playmaker when he was doubled or tripled." Scoring was Jordan's main job; other tasks were left to Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, among others.

McHale's assertion that holding Jordan to 10 shots would control him might, in theory, prove ok. In light of his role as a team's premier scorer, it is hard to fathom an NBA team's keeping him in the vicinity of 10 shots a game.