Happy 56th Birthday Larry Bird

Well it’s another legendary Celtics player’s birthday. It was on this day 56 years ago in the small town of French Lick, Indiana that the Celtics greatest player of all-time was born.

There’s really no place to start with describing how good Larry Bird was when trying to write this blog. I could probably write 1,500 words, and it still wouldn’t be enough.

In sports, one of the most overused words is amazing. It’s used all the time when a big moment occurs, or when a player does something that stuns the fans and media. But using it to describe Bird isn’t an overstatement. He was that good, and for many Celtics fans, he was simply the best.

For 13 years he, along with Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, led the Celtics to three championships in 1981, 1984, and 1986. In addition, they went to the Finals in 1985 and 1987. The three players also formed arguably the greatest front court in NBA history, and were dubbed the Big Three. But Bird was the straw that stirred the drink. During two of the championships, he earned the Finals MVP in 1984 and 1986.

Bird also won Rookie of the Year in 1980, league MVP three times from 1984-1986, and made the All-Star team 12 times.

Throughout the 80s, he and Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson formed a friendly rivalry that brought interest back to the NBA. After Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain retired, the league went into an attendance and lack of interest funk in the 70s. But the 80s were all about the Celtics and Lakers. Johnson would win five championships versus Bird’s three. In total, the Celtics and Lakers won eight out of a possible ten championships during this decade.

Despite the Lakers winning more, the 1985-1986 Celtics team is considered by many fans and media personalities alike to be the greatest basketball team of all-time. The Celtics went 67-15 on the way to their 16th franchise championship. They were so good that they lost just one game at home, in the Boston Garden, and that includes the playoffs as well. Like I mentioned above, Bird won the league MVP, and Finals MVP that year.

Bird was also the ultimate team player. He often sacrificed his body for the good of the team by diving on the floor for loose balls. In fact, his style of play led to numerous back injuries and an early retirement at the age of 35. To this day his back isn’t right, and it’s a reason why he resigned as president of basketball operations of the Indiana Pacers this past offseason.

There are even many moments of when he came up clutch, and I’ll name a few. Who could forget Bird stealing an inbound pass by Isiah Thomas during the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons? How about him exploding for 60 points against the Atlanta Hawks back in 1985? In fact, it was Bird who scored all 16 of the Celtics final points in that game.

Today, when fans debate on who was the greatest Celtics player of all-time, the argument always ends with either Bird or Russell. The late Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach even dumped fuel onto that debate by saying Bird was the greatest basketball player of all-time. Despite all the accolades and honors from the basketball world, Bird is still just a quiet guy from French Lick, Indiana.

Happy Birthday Larry!

Photo (cc) by nantonin and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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New Orleans Hornets to Change Name to Pelicans

This is a tad off topic, but it’s definitely worth blogging about.

According to Yahoo! Sports, the New Orleans Hornets are reportedly going to change their team name to the New Orleans Pelicans effective for the 2013-2014 season.

Team owner Tom Benson, who bought the Hornets back in April and is the owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, has wanted to change the name of the team to something that would be fitting to the state of Louisiana.

The pelican is the official state bird of Louisiana, and it appears on the state flag and seal as well. The Pelicans were also a minor league baseball team based in New Orleans from 1887-1977.

As far as the The New Orleans Hornets go, the team first started out as the Charlotte Hornets back during the 1988-1989 season. In 2002, they moved to New Orleans and kept the same name. Meanwhile, the league granted the city of Charlotte an expansion team for the 2004-2005 season, which would end up being the Charlotte Bobcats.

Analysis

When I first heard the Hornets were reportedly going to change their team name I kind of laughed. I mean can you see players telling their agents, “I want to be a Pelican!”

Besides, I find pelicans to be kind of creepy. Those long beaks and mouths are just freaky. I think I feel like this because they remind me of that flying dinosaur from the mediocre Jurassic Park 3who trampled all over a main character, and tried to bring another to feed to its young. Just creepy, but I won’t hate on pelicans. That’s just the way they were made. It’s not their fault.

Now that the news has sunk in, I understand where Brown is coming from. A pelican is part of Louisiana’s history, which I respect. However, If we’re going to change names, we might as well change the names of the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, and Memphis Grizzlies.

It would’ve been nice to see the Hornets become the Jazz again like they were during the days of ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich. I also like the idea of the New Orleans Sound. It’s a fitting alternative to the Jazz, and a nice tribute to the musical past that New Orleans offers.

I also find it interesting that Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is open to the idea of bringing back the Hornets name to Charlotte. Apparently, there’s a small group of fans who long for the past to a point where more fans are wearing the old-school Hornets apparel rather than wearing Bobcats apparel.

We shall see.

Photo (cc) by bertknot and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Rajon Rondo Suspended for Altercation With Kris Humphries

The bad news just keeps rolling in for the Celtics. This time starting point guard Rajon Rondo will be suspended for the next two games due to his physical altercation with Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries yesterday.

Gerald Wallace and Kevin Garnett were also both fined for “escalating the incident.” Wallace was fined $25,000, while Garnett was hit with a $35,000 fine. Humphries wasn’t suspended or fined.

The fight started shortly before halftime during the Nets blowout win.

At the time, the Nets were up by 16 points. Kevin Garnett was driving to the basket when Humphries fouled him. Garnett fell to the floor, and by the time he got up, the pushing and shoving already started.

Rondo took exception to the foul and started shoving Humphries into the crowd. That led to other players going into the stands to pull them apart and for others to go and stick up for their teammates who were part of the scrum. Nets forward Gerald Wallace was the most physical player, outside of Rondo and Humphries, was shoving Garnett around pretty good.

So the question is, was the suspension Rondo received justified?

I believe it was. I’m probably in the minority for what happened, but the fact remains, he was the main aggressor. Humphries fouled Garnett a little harder than normal, but that’s basketball. But after the hit, it seemed like Garnett sold his fall to the referees a little bit. In other words, it was a little more dramatic than usual. Typical of NBA players these days.

What Rondo should’ve done was get in Humphries face, have a few words, and maybe shove him a little bit. Shoving meaning a few pushes, and not pushing him into the stands. That’s it. He probably wouldn’t have gotten suspended or even fined, and if he did get fined, it would’ve been real small.

My whole issue is everybody saying it’s good he showed toughness and leadership, and that he’ll stick up for a teammate. Does Rondo really have to prove to the world that he’ll stick up for Garnett who has been his friend and teammate since 2007? No it doesn’t. This isn’t the streets of Boston or Lawrence, Mass., where you’re trying to prove to your high school buddies that you’re tough. People promoting and saying Rondo “kicked Humphries ass” are ill-informed. If Rondo is going to be a leader, he needs to show better judgement. Celtics analyst Donny Marshall said it best by saying “being a leader means staying on the court.” Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers said it was a boneheaded move by Rondo. I understand that he won’t throw his players under the bus, but Rivers is usually a pretty stand up and honest guy. I believe he meant what he said.

I like Rondo a lot. He’s improving everyday. There was a time where I never thought he’d learn how to shoot a decent midrange jumpshot, but now he does. What he needs to improve on is his judgement of situations. This is the third time he has been suspended in the last nine months. That’s unacceptable of someone who is going to be a leader.

Personally, I think he isn’t ready to be called a leader. Some media members might have put that label on him because of the way he plays and facilitates a game.

But right now, Rondo is more of a leader in training, and whether or not he becomes a real leader is debatable. For all we know, he might not even want that title. The way I see it, as long as Paul Pierce is playing, this will be his team until he retires.