Larry Bird established himself as an all-time great behind his iconic career with the Boston Celtics. In retirement, Bird remains around the ever-evolving NBA game. However, the former Celtics great still doesn’t understand the fascination with dunking on another player.
Larry Bird’s illustrious NBA legacy
Bird played 14 years with the Celtics, where he became one of the league’s greatest players.
The French Lick native’s game didn’t depend on athleticism but rather on his shooting and passing ability. His playing style led him to construct an illustrious career during which he won three NBA titles and two Finals MVP awards, earned three regular-season MVP awards, and received 12 All-Star selections and nine All-NBA First Team nods.
Bird helped transform the league through his intense rivalry with Magic Johnson, leading the NBA to reach levels of popularity it hadn’t before. Since stepping away from the game, the former Celtics great has kept an eye on the league and remains baffled about one aspect.
Larry Bird is baffled by NBA players getting mad about getting dunked on: ‘If somebody dunked on you, then you go hit a three, who’s ahead?’
After heading into retirement, Bird has maintained a strong pulse on the game.
He ventured into coaching for three years with the Indiana Pacers, which eventually led him to become the team’s president of basketball operations for several years. Bird’s presence around the league kept him in the loop with the evolution of the game.
During that time, the NBA transitioned from the mid-range shot toward either driving to the rim or shooting 3-pointers. During an interview on The B.S. Report with longtime sportswriter Bill Simmons in February 2013, Bird voiced his befuddlement over the fascination with dunking on another player.
“If you look at our game, the mid-range game is almost gone,” Bird said. “Even Charles [Barkley] and them, they are always talking about dunking. Charles was a dunker, but he was more of a passer and a power player, but everyone gets caught up in these dunks. If somebody dunked on you, then you go hit a three, who’s ahead? I never did get that.”
Bird’s approach to the game never hinged on athletic ability but rather his skill, which was rooted in his shooting touch. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see him embrace the mentality of making a shot over an opponent after giving up a bucket.
The former Celtics great also wasn’t afraid of trash-talk as that helped bring the best out of himself. He didn’t need much to get going, and getting the better of an opponent through his scoring fit that bill.
NBA continues to embrace the 3-point shot
In the eight years since Bird‘s comments, the league has continued to transition away from the mid-range game.
Several prominent players such as Chris Paul, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Khris Middleton still lean heavily upon the shot, but it’s mainly become a game dictated by 3-pointers. Dunks over opposing players will always make the highlight reel, but teams have embraced the playing style focused on the outside shot.
The Golden State Warriors, led by Stephen Curry, transformed the NBA further into emphasizing shooting 3-pointers and spacing the floor. The Warriors’ championship success led the rest of the league to adopt the playing style. Last season, each team averaged north of 30.0 3-pointers attempted per game.
The dependency on the 3-point shot presents a much different flow to the game, which has made the mid-range area largely a non-factor. The NBA is constantly evolving, and right now, the 3-pointer is here to stay.