With LeBron James breaking NBA records on what feels like a nightly basis, the debate about the greatest players of all time is a hot topic. James-versus-Michael Jordan will likely remain at the center of this discussion. Yet this also sheds light on other legendary players of the past.
One player will always be ranked near the top of the all-time greats: Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird. Yet younger fans who didn’t witness the Hall of Famer’s career don’t understand what made him so great. Let’s look at Bird’s impressive on-court resume.
Larry Bird’s individual achievements
Bird’s individual numbers alone place him among the most skilled basketball players ever. Over the course of 13 seasons, The forward averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. He also maintained an impressive efficiency, shooting 49.6% from two-point and 37.6% from three-point range during his career.
Bird was arguably at his best when the pressure was on. As a result, he’s often considered the most clutch basketball player ever on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Analysts frequently point to Bird’s triple-double in the final game of the 1986 NBA Finals as the perfect example of his dominance.
The Indiana native earned many individual awards during his career, starting with Rookie of the Year in his first season. Bird went on to win three consecutive MVP awards, from 1983 to 1986. This achievement puts him in rare territory; only two other players in NBA history have won three straight MVPs: Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
Bird won two Finals MVP awards. He was selected to 12 All-Star teams, 10 All-NBA teams, and three All-Defensive teams. Bird also holds the distinction of being the first player in the so-called 50-40-90 club; in other words, he shot 50% from the floor, 40% from three, and 90% from the free-throw line. Only seven other players have achieved this.
Larry Bird’s Celtics teams
Bird ultimately won three championships with the Celtics, in 1981, 1984, and 1986. While he was undoubtedly the best player on those teams, his supporting casts were nothing to sneeze at. In fact, over the course of his career, six of Bird’s teammates ultimately entered the Hall of Fame: Dave Cowens, Tiny Archibald, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, and Bill Walton.
Those teams, especially the 1985-86 Celtics squad, consistently rank among the greatest ever. Of course, simply amassing talent is no guarantee of a championship. It took a leader as fierce and competitive as Bird to help his teams overcome other all-time great franchises like the Showtime Lakers.
Bird’s resume easily holds its own against the other all-time greats. Yet a lot of his legacy rests on his status as one of the most legendary players of all time. After all, he didn’t earn the nickname “Larry Legend” for nothing. Bird had a drive to win shared by few players before or since.
This drive manifested in his clutch play. It also came out in one of Bird’s less tangible yet no less important skills: the art of trash talking. The forward had a way of unsettling opponents and getting into their heads, sometimes even leading to fights. This trait has led to the kinds of stories that keep Bird’s legendary status alive today.
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