Larry Bird beat J.R. Smith to shoelace stunt

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J.R. Smith was put through the ringer last week for untying Dwight Howard’s shoe, untying Shawn Marion’s shoe and gesturing to untie Greg Monroe’s shoe.

Smith was fined, benched, told to grow up by his coach and shamed by the NBA’s most powerful writer.

So why didn’t Larry Bird get the same treatment after his matchup with Chuck Person in the 1991 playoffs? Jack McCallum’s “Unfinished Business,” as excerpted by Billy Haisley on Deadspin:

Bird and Person continued their personal battle. At one point when Bird was out of the game and lying on his towel in front of the bench, he reached over and untied Person’s shoelaces as the Pacer waited for a free throw at the other end.

Bird is a relentless competitor who will seek any edge.

Smith is a clown who doesn’t play the game the right way.

The characterizations were written long before either player untied an opponent’s shoe. The facts were just fit into the narrative in support of the already-established script.

It’s hypocritical.

Anyone who slammed Smith should either accept they overreacted or assess Bird similarly for this act. A difference in eras does not justify one and not the other.

Bird and Smith are obviously not the same and do not deserve the same reputations.

But for how they handled these specific cases, they deserve the same scrutiny.