• James Worthy is still celebrated today as one of the greats to ever play basketball
  • Worthy says Larry Bird is harder to guard because of his mind games on the court
  • The 1988 NBA Finals MVP played with a young Michael Jordan as a teammate in college

Former Los Angeles Lakers star James Worthy had his share of countless battles during his prime, particularly matchups against Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics and Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls.

Worthy was a great player in his own right, someone who starred for the North Carolina Tar Heels from 1979 to 1982.

There is no question that he was one of the best players ever to come out of the Tar Heels program. No less than former NBA player and current The Basketball League president in David Magley attested to that.

Magley shared some valuable points on the 1988 NBA Finals MVP when he appeared on the Sports For All PH podcast hosted by Vincent Juico and Brian Yalung.

“Worthy was so darn good. You had to be aware of him all the time. James Worthy was 6-foot-9 and his hands were incredibly big. The team [then] was built around James,” Magley recalled.

Magley also shared the situation in North Carolina at the time, including the part when no one knew that Jordan would transition on to greatness.

“Remember, Michael was a freshman when James was a junior and they won the national championship. Michael had a big shot in the championship game, but it was James’ team. There was no doubt about it. People thought Michael was going to turn into a great player, but at that point, they did not know that he was going to be the ‘Michael Jordan,’” Magley explained.

When all of them were in the NBA, Worthy was a huge star for the Purple and Gold.

But when he was asked to pick on who between the two he had a tough time guarding, the three-time NBA champion stressed that Bird was more difficult to guard even if he was smaller.

It appears the reason behind this is that the 12-time All-Star was unpredictable and anyone who guarded him needed to be a quick thinker.

“I would much rather guard Michael Jordan than Larry Bird, because you have to play the game as a thinker when you’re playing [Bird]. You have to get inside his mind. Larry wasn’t quick, he couldn’t jump really high, but there were just some sleepless nights," Worthy said on ESPN’s Sports Century.

Players and fans who remember Bird and Jordan will see the stark contrast between the two.

Bird was slower and did damage from the outside. Jordan, on the other hand, was quicker.

But the difference between them is the mental warfare that they use during games.

Both were known trash-talkers and knew how to get into people’s minds. It appears at least on this aspect, Bird had an edge over “His Airness.”

James Worthy After a Winning Basketball Game
James Worthy After a Winning Basketball Game Getty Images | Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis