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.
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.