Larry Bird had a memorable NBA career. He was one of the best scorers of all time. Bird spent his entire career with the Boston Celtics and had a lot of success. The talented forward won three NBA titles and won three NBA MVP awards as a member of the Celtics.
For opponents, Bird was an offensive nightmare. One player that Bird gave a lot of trouble to was Shawn Kemp. Kemp reminisced on the time he played Bird for the first time and it didn’t go too well for him.
Larry Bird was a force on the court during his career
When Bird entered the league, he immediately made an impact. During his rookie season, he averaged 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He was named to the All-Star team and won the Rookie of the Year award. Bird helped lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers.
In Bird’s second season he helped lead the Celtics back to the Eastern Conference as they faced the 76ers for the second consecutive season. The Celtics got their revenge against the 76ers and advanced to the 1981 NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets. During the finals, Bird averaged 15.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 7 assists per game as the Celtics won the title to give Bird his first NBA championship.
Bird continued to dominate throughout his career and play on some great Celtics teams that had a lot of success. He spent 13 seasons in the league and averaged 20.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. The Hall of Famer made a name for himself during his career. Bird is the only person in NBA history to be named Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, NBA Finals MVP, All-Star MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.
Shawn Kemp was a man amongst boys on the court
Shawn Kemp was a name that people knew throughout the league during his career and to this day, people still know about Kemp and how he used to dunk on people. Kemp played in the NBA for 14 seasons and was a six-time NBA All-Star and a three-time All-NBA Second Team member. At 6-foot-10, Kemp was a high-flyer. Whenever he would dunk, he made sure you felt it.
Kemp was a physical player on the court and he made sure you would feel his presence. He quickly became a fan favorite during his time with the Seattle SuperSonics. If Kemp was anywhere near the rim, you knew he would throw it down with force. That was the way he played and that’s what he did best.
Larry Bird had a message for Shawn Kemp when they first played each other
Larry Bird and Shawn Kemp are both natives of Indiana. Both of them were stars in high school and they went on to enjoy careers in the league. Kemp recently appeared on the ‘Knuckleheads’ podcast with former NBA players Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson and one thing he talked about was the first time he played Bird in the NBA.
Now, Bird was familiar with Kemp because they both came from Indiana and Bird did a little bit of trash talking to Kemp. “We were playing the Boston Celtics, so the great Larry Bird. I’m from Indiana and Larry’s from Indiana,” Kemp said. “I knew about the history of Larry but I didn’t realize how he really got down.” Kemp quickly got a taste of how Bird played the game and how he wasn’t afraid to talk trash.
“Larry gave me 50 [points] in three quarters. And he talked to me the whole entire game. He asked me at the jump ball, ‘You’re the one that broke all my records in high school right?’ and I said ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ and he said ‘I’ve got something for you tonight,'” Kemp said. Now Bird actually finished with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists vs. Kemp on Dec. 13, 1989. That’s still an impressive stat line from Bird and he let Kemp have it that game. It was only fair for Bird to let Kemp know before the game that he was going to dominate him.
Stats Courtesy of Basketball Reference