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.