Happy Birthday to one Larry Joe Bird. “Larry Legend” turned 63 years old yesterday. One of the greatest Boston athletes of all time, Bird helped the Celtics win three NBA championships in the 1980’s. Along with the help of Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Magic Johnson, Bird took the NBA to heights it had never seen before.
The Finals were on tape delay before the NBA found their marketing chops. The dynamic players of the time, mostly Bird and Magic, helped make The NBA what it is today. The 1984, 1985, and 1987 NBA Finals are still some of the best basketball series ever played. Bird put on an absolute clinic in many of those games. Possibly his most famous performance against the Lakers was Game 5 of the ‘84 Finals in a sweltering Boston Garden.
Larry Bird was one of the most confident, clutch, and entertaining athletes Boston fans have ever had the pleasure of watching. His trash-talking was second to none. He would raise his game when his team needed him most. Listing off iconic Larry Bird plays is as easy for Celtics fans as it is for John Lennon fans to rattle of famous Beatles tunes.
“The Steal” vs. the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the 1987 ECF remains one of the clutchest plays in sports history. That Pistons team was smelling blood, and they could feel the Celtic dynasty ending at their hands. All they had to do was inbound the ball. But Bird had other plans.
“Aaaand… Now there’s a steal by Bird!!” Johnny Most howled through the Boston Garden. “Underneath to D.J. he lays it in. Detroit has one second left. What a play by Bird!! Bird stole the in-bounding pass. Laid it up to D.J. and D.J. laid it up in. And Boston has a one point lead with one second left. Oh my this place is going crazy!!”
If Bird does't make that steal, the Celtics lose that game. Detroit would go on to win Game 6, with Boston prevailing in seven. Very few singular plays have ever won swung a series that dramatically.
Maybe the best season a Boston athlete has ever enjoyed was Larry Bird in 1986. Bird would win the MVP, averaging 25.8 points a game, 6.8 assists, and 9.8 rebounds per game. He shot 49.6% from the field, 89.6% from the stripe, and 42.3 from beyond the arc. As is usually the case with Bird, stats don't tell the full story.
In the playoffs Bird somehow took his game to another level. He averaged 25.9 points per game, with 8.2 assists and 9.3 rebounds. He improved his shooting percentage to 51.7 percent, and free throw shooting to 92.7%. Bird’s three percentage was also still impressive at 41.1%.
Bird, along with the rest of that legendary ‘86 Celtics squad, squashed teams lead by NBA HOFer’s. Michael Jordan and the Bulls, Dominique Wilkins and the Hawks, Sidney Moncrief and the Bucks, and Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets all fell victim to Bird and the Celtics. Bird took over Game 6 of the Finals in every way possible.
Unfortunately, injuries ravaged Bird throughout much of his career, with his infamous back injury being the biggest reason. Boston fans adored the way Bird would crash through scorer’s tables and dive after loose balls. So after he gave Boston 13 incredible years, the fans rewarded him with a very memorable goodbye. When he had his retirement ceremony in February of 1993, there could not have been many dry eyes in the Boston Garden.
Larry Bird finished his career averaging 24-10-6 a game. He grabbed three NBA Finals rings, two Finals MVPs, 12 All-Star nods, and an Olympic gold medal. He is not only one of the best Boston athletes of all time, but also one of the 10 best NBA players ever to lace ‘em up.
Story by Chad Jones
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