Long before guys like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson became knock-down shooters, Larry Bird elevated three-point shooting to an art form. The Boston Celtics star wasn’t content to simply fire away from long range, though. Every time he hit the floor, Larry Legend was capable of doing it all; he could score at will and had no problem trash-talking every step of the way.
While there are plenty of stories about Bird calling out a single player or even going after his own teammates, he wasn’t afraid of aiming even higher. During a game against the Phoenix Suns, the forward torched the entire opposing team in one fell swoop.
Larry Bird lived up to the title of ‘Legend’
While plenty of pro athletes earn nicknames during their careers, few are as fitting as ‘Larry Legend.’ That title tells you everything you need to know about Bird’s time on the hardwood.
After a false start to his college career—Bird initially enrolled at the University of Indiana, but felt out of place in Bloomington and left before suiting up for the Hoosiers—the forward found himself at Indiana State. While the Sycamores weren’t exactly an NCAA powerhouse, Bird changed that single-handedly. He averaged 30.3 points per game during his three seasons on campus, claimed the 1979 National Player of the Year crown, and carried his team to the 1979 NCAA title game, where they fell to Magic Johnson and Michigan State.
On the back of the success, the Boston Celtic selected Bird the sixth-overall pick of the 1978 NBA draft. While it wasn’t initially clear if he’d head to Beantown—at the time, players could remain in school and, if Bird waited, he’d presumably be the first-overall pick in a year’s time—both parties eventually signed on the dotted line.
Once in the NBA, Bird became nothing short of a legend. During his 13 seasons with the Celtics, he averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game; the forward also claimed a Rookie of the Year title, three NBA MVP awards, and led the Celtics to three championships.
A knock-down shooter and a lethal trash-talker
Larry Bird wasn’t just a pure scorer capable of knocking down jumpers with ease, though. The Boston Celtics great was also a lethal trash-talker.
Although it’s possible that things have been exaggerated and embellished over time, basketball lore is full stories about Larry Bird calling out anyone who stood in his way. During one game, the forward apparently asked Craig Ehlo, who was defending him, if his mother was watching the game to see him get embarrassed. On another occasion, he claimed that no one was guarding, despite Dennis Rodman’s best efforts.
Bird wasn’t even above chirping his own teammates. According to Joe Kleine, Larry Legend approached Ed Pinckney before practice and simply said, “Ed blankety-blank Pinckney. Ed blankety-blank Pinckney. I am going to kill you today in practice.”
Larry Bird once told the Phoenix Suns that he was tired of playing them, then hit the game-winner
Larry Bird’s trash talk wasn’t limited to individual players, though. During one game against the Phoenix Suns, he decided to let the entire bench get in on the action.
As Kevin McHale once explained on The Dan Patrick Show, the Celtics let a lead slip away and trailed the Suns by two in the dying moments of a game. While the team had a specific play designed for the situation, Bird decided to take matters into his own hands and shoot a game-winning three.
“So he tells the Phoenix bench [and] tells the coaches, ‘Yeah, I’m just fixing to bust a three on you guys and just go home. I’m tired of this.”
Unsurprisingly, he lived up to his word. “He gets the ball, jumps out, busts the play, comes out, gets the ball in the slot, shoots the ball. As the ball is in the air, he kind of turns toward the Phoenix bench and yells ‘Told you so,’ and takes off running to the locker room.”
If there was any doubt in your mind, Larry Bird made that shot, and the Boston Celtics won the game.