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.

Happy 66th Birthday Jo Jo White

Another Celtics legend’s birthday has arrived. This time it’s for the clutch shooter Jo Jo White who turned 66 years old today.

For fans who don’t know him, White was a staple for the Celtics during the 1970s.

In 1969, the 6’3″ point guard was drafted out of the University of Kansas by legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach. He was part of the Kansas team that went up against Texas Western and their all-black starting lineup, which inspired the movie Glory Road. Kansas ended up losing a double overtime thriller to Texas Western, in the Midwest regional final (Texas Western went on to win the championship).

When White was drafted, Celtics’ legend Bill Russell was on his way out as player/coach. The 1970s would start off slow where the Celtics would miss the playoffs for two season. However the tide would start changing when White, along with Dave Cowens, and John Havlicek would lead the C’s to two championships during the 1974 and 1976 seasons.

During White’s career he made the All Star team seven straight seasons from 1971 to 1977. He would also finish in the top ten in assists for five consecutive seasons from 1972 to 1977.

However, the biggest moment in his career occurred during the 1976 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns. In Game 5, he scored 33 points in 60 minutes during a thrilling triple-overtime victory, which is considered by many fans and media personalities to be the greatest game in NBA history. His performance earned him the NBA Finals MVP award.

White’s career with the Celtics ended in 1979 when he was traded to the Golden State Warriors. His career officially ended in 1981 after he played several games for the Kansas City Kings.

In 1982, the Celtics retired his number 10 to the Boston Garden rafters to live forever among the team’s greats.

It’s also interesting to note that White isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but according to Basketball Reference, he has the highest Hall of Fame probability rate among players who played pre-1990.

Here is a video of White making a game winning shot against the Philadelphia 76ers during Game 1 of the 1977 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals:

Picture is from the author of this blog’s personal media library. Some rights reserved.