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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Happy 64th Birthday Dave Cowens

How can any Celtics fan forget that today is Dave Cowens birthday. Yeah, I understand that remembering athletes birthdays are weird, but I saw that it was his birthday when I was surfing the internet, so I figured why not do a blog on one of the greatest Celtics and basketball players of all-time.

After a rare down period of not winning after Bill Russell retired as a player and coach, the Celtics were in a small state of flux.

Then during the 1970 NBA Draft, Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach pulled another rabbit out of a hat and drafted a big red-headed, Kentucky boy out of Florida State University with the 4th pick of the draft. This was the beginning of Cowens career with the Celtics, which lasted from 1970-1980.

Of course, Auerbach was told that the 6’9″ Cowens was too small to play center. He was told that he couldn’t match up against big centers such as Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That was a bunch of crap. In fact, the league would have to watch out for Cowens for a full decade.

What did Cowens do in his 11-year Celtics career?

He was a seven-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year in 1971, All-Star MVP in 1973, league MVP in 1973, All-Defensive First Team in 1976, NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1971 and of course a two-time NBA champion in 1974 and 1976.

After Cowens retired, he was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team and elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.

Not bad ehh?

Don’t forget Cowens was probably the hardest and grittiest player to ever wear the Celtics uniform. His coach during the two years he won championships was Tom Heinsohn. You can bet your bottom dollar that if Heinsohn was handing out “Tommy Points” back then that Cowens would be the recipient and winner every night.

Cowens was all heart, and he poured buckets of sweat and even some blood at times for the Celtics, his teammates, Auerbach and Heinsohn. He was always diving on the floor for loose balls, and devouring rebounds whenever the ball was within an arms length reach and then some.

In a day where athletes are overpaid divas and who go by whatever their agent tells them, it’s always good to look back and reflect on players, such as Cowens, who gave everything they got to the game in order to win.

Here are some highlights from his career.

Photo (cc) by murphman61 and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.