Something always seems to come between them.
Even when they appeared in the same Super Bowl commercial a couple years back, they never got a chance to sit down and talk.
“It would be great at some point,” LeBron said Monday. “He’s a busy man. I’m a busy man.”
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So, even though Bird is in town as Pacers team president, he had to send his congratulations to the Heat star the old-fashioned way.
Through the media.
“LeBron is just spectacular,” Bird was saying Monday afternoon from his courtside seat at Pacers practice. “He’s had a great year. He’s our best player in the league. This is his time of year.”
That last line clanged off the rim, considering how LeBron’s career-long quest for that first NBA ring is still ongoing.
Still, there’s no mistaking the mutual admiration between these two all-time greats.
Maybe it’s the fact both come from humble Midwestern roots, their strong single mothers struggling to pay the bills as their home addresses changed frequently.
Maybe it’s the way both men ignored their power-forward frames to become outstanding long-range shooters.
Maybe it’s the fact they both loved to pass, to make their teammates better, and they could see the whole chess board unfold in slow motion the way few others ever have.
“With his body, his skill, his ability to get out and run and jump,” Bird said, “I don’t think we’ve quite seen anybody play his position who can do what he can do. We’ve seen scorers, we’ve seen rebounders, we’ve seen defenders, but to have the total package …”
The Hall of Fame forward paused and shook his head.
“I always say it’s fun to watch him,” Bird said. “I just sit back and watch him play.”
Sunday’s Game 1 loss was different. After his Pacers held LeBron to six points in building a six-point halftime lead, they let him shake loose for 26 points after the break.
“He played awesome,” Bird said. “He’s a special player. Just proves that not only on the offensive end, but the defensive end.”
Danny Granger’s 1-for-10 shooting day had plenty to do with LeBron.
“He took Granger completely out of everything he wanted to do,” Bird said. “This is the best time to go into the playoffs knowing you’re the best player in the league.”