Larry Bird Interrupted Bill Walton’s Heartfelt Apology After the Boston Celtics Opened the 1985-86 Season With an OT Loss
The 1985-86 Boston Celtics are arguably the best team in franchise history. Some will put them up there with the best NBA teams of all time. Larry Bird had won two straight MVPs heading into the season. He teamed with Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to form what many believe is the best frontcourt in NBA history.
The Celtics reached the NBA Finals the previous two seasons but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1985. They added veteran center Bill Walton in the offseason to boost their bench. The Celtics won 67 games that season but lost an overtime game to the New Jersey Nets in the season opener, Walton’s debut.
After the game, Walton, who finished with four points, seven turnovers, and five fouls, apologized to the team. Always long-winded, Walton began his apology speech before Bird had to interrupt.
Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics had a memorable 1985-86 season
While the 1985-86 Celtics’ season didn’t start out as planned, Boston won 67 games, the second-highest total for a season in franchise history. After dropping the opener 113-109, the Celtics rattled off eight straight wins and pulled out 17 victories in their next 18 games.
They went 11-1 in the playoffs before reaching the NBA Finals for the third straight year. Out West, the Houston Rockets stunned the Lakers in the conference finals, earning a rematch of the 1981 NBA Finals with the Celtics. The Celtics secured the first of their three ’80s championships by knocking off the Rockets in six games in ’81.
The Celtics earned a repeat by defeating the Rockets in six, earning their third championship of the decade.
Bird picked up his third consecutive MVP that year. He averaged 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. He led the league in free-throw percentage at 89.6%. Bird also averaged two steals per game.
Despite the first-game struggles, Walton was just what the doctor ordered for Boston. He played his role to perfection, spelling McHale and Parish when needed. The oft-injured center played more games (80) than in any of his 10 NBA seasons. He averaged 7.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19.3 minutes off the bench and was voted the league’s Sixth Man of the Year.
Bird interrupted Walton’s postgame apology after their season-opening loss
In his first regular-season game with the Celtics, Walton had a tough outing. He played 19 minutes off the bench and led the team in turnovers with seven. Walton went 2-for-4 from the floor, finishing with four points. He had five rebounds and five fouls.
It was not the start he was looking for with his new team. McHale said after the game, Walton spoke to the team, apologizing for his performance. When Walton talks, he has a knack for sometimes talking too much.
“I remember Larry taking off his shoes and Bill standing up and going, “I would like to apologize to everybody who ever put on a Boston Celtics uniform…” McHale recalled, according to NBC Sports.
“I remember Larry getting about halfway through his shoe, and he goes, ‘I sure as hell hope we play better because I can’t stand listening to that 81 more times.’ We all just started laughing.
“Bill was so sincere, and Larry was like, ‘It’s just one game, man, but just don’t play like that again because I can’t stand to hear that speech every night.’
“I remember just laughing and going, man, what a bad game. New group of guys. One of 82. It was just a bad game. We were a team that always found ways to win. The reason I remember that game is because we did everything we could to lose. With that team, it just took a little while for us to catch the right groove.”
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