Larry Bird says he would get offended when an opposing team would try to defend him with a white player. news services
Updated: 12:59 p.m. ET June 16, 2004Larry Bird says he knows what the NBA needs -- more white superstars. The NBA legend and Indiana Pacers President of basketball operations said in an interview with ESPN that while the NBA will always be dominated by black players, the presence of more white stars would appeal to the majority of its fans.

"You know when I played, you had me and Kevin (McHale) and some others throughout the league." Bird said. "I think it's good for a fan base because as we all know the majority of the fans are white America. And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited. But it is a black man's game, and it will be forever. I mean, the greatest athletes in the world are African-American.

"Johnson, who along with Bird helped revitalize the league when they both entered it in 1979, seemed to agree with Bird.

"We need some more LB's, Larry Birds," Johnson said. "I mean you know, you want that. Larry Bird, you see, can go into any neighborhood. When you say 'Larry Bird,' black people know who he is, Hispanics, whites, and they give him the respect."

Bird also said that when he played, he felt offended when the other team attempted to defend him with a white player.

"The one thing that always bothered me when I played in the NBA was I really got irritated when they put a white guy on me," said Bird, a notorious trash talker during his playing days. "I still don't understand why. A white guy would come out (and) I would always ask him: 'What, do you have a problem with your coach? Did your coach do this to you?' And he'd go, 'No,' and I'd say, 'Come on, you got a white guy coming out here to guard me; you got no chance.' For some reason, that always bothered me when I was playing against a white guy."

Bird continued ...

"As far as playing, I didn't care who guarded me — red, yellow, black. I just didn't want a white guy guarding me, because it's disrespect to my game."

Though Bird’s remarks sparked some debate on talk shows and in newspapers, they didn’t cause any stir at the NBA Finals.

And Denver’s Carmelo Anthony and Cleveland’s LeBron James, also participating in the round-table interview, disagreed with Bird.

“Race is not an issue,” Anthony said. “Where I’m from, people love the Yao Mings, the Dirks, the Pejas. They love these guys. I don’t think race is an issue right now.”

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