Larry Bird Locked Up His 3rd Straight MVP With a Dominant Texas Trifecta

Larry Bird was coming off two straight MVPs. It would take a lot to sway voters to pick him for the third straight time, right? The Boston Celtics star left no choice as he guided the Celtics to the best record in the NBA and led them to their third championship of the decade during the 1985-86 season. It was likely during a three-game Texas swing that separated Bird from the rest of the pack and earned him his third consecutive MVP honor.

Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics were eager to avenge their loss to the Lakers in the 1985 NBA Finals

Boston Celtics’ M.L. Carr, left, and Larry Bird share a laugh on the bench during the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the second round of the 1982 NBA playoffs between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. | Frank O’Brien/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In the 1985 NBA Finals, the Celtics showed they were overmatched in the bench department. Boston’s starters did the bulk of the work while the Lakers had the luxury of Michael Cooper coming into the games and injecting instant offense. In Game 2 of the series, LA’s bench outscored Boston’s 35-9 with Cooper putting up 22. During Game 5, only one Celtics reserve — Scott Wedman — scored a point.

Boston fell to the Lakers in six games and did whatever it could to make sure it didn’t happen the following season.

In the offseason, the Celtics brought in veteran big man Bill Walton to give life to the Boston bench. The oft-injured center came through big time in his first year with the team.

Walton played in a career-high 80 games, spelling frontcourt stars Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. He averaged 19.3 minutes coming off the bench in all but two games that year. He put up 7.6 points and 6.8 rebounds as the Celtics cruised to the best record in the NBA with 67 regular-season victories.

The Celtics made a return trip to the NBA Finals, but it wasn’t the Lakers they faced. The Houston Rockets knocked off the defending champs, setting up a rematch of the 1981 Finals between the Celtics and Rockets.

Larry Bird won his third straight MVP and may have clinched it with his three-game stretch in Texas

Bird was a jokester. He’d mess around with teammates and trash-talk opponents. When it came time to play basketball, however, he was dead serious. That was evident when the Celtics had their three-game Texas swing in March 1986.

The Celtics opened their Texas trip against the Dallas Mavericks and Bird showed he meant business before the game started.

“We just didn’t think we were going to lose,” said Bird in a video put out by the Boston Celtics, commemorating the 1986 title run. “We lost some games throughout the year. I can remember one in particular where I was mad at Kevin and Bill before the game. They were messing around in Dallas.

“I was very upset. I went out and told them, ‘I don’t need you guys, I’ll win it by myself.’ I score 50, and we lose, but I made my point.”

He finished with 50 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists in a 116-115 loss.

Bird followed the Mavs game with a 31-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound game in a 116-104 victory over the Rockets. He closed out the Texas trip in San Antonio by racking up 33 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes as the Celtics cruised to a 135-119 win over the Spurs.

Bird insisted statistics never mattered to him

The win over the Spurs put the Celtics at 52-13. It was win No. 2 of what would turn out to be a 14-game winning streak. Bird scored 31 of his 33 points in the first half. He fell a point shy of setting a team record for most points in a half. None of that mattered to him.

“Records really don’t mean much to me,” Bird said, according to United Press International. “I know we scored a lot of points in the first half, but we really didn’t play much defense. I started out good tonight by getting some easy baskets, and that really helped.”

Mike Mitchell had the unenviable task of guarding Bird, who made 12 of 13 shots on the night.

“Bird can do anything on the floor,” Mitchell said after the game. “He has range past the 3-point line, and that makes it tough. They are definitely the best team we’ve played all year.”

Bird also proved he was the best player — for the third straight year.

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