Former Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird is widely regarded as one of the best players in NBA history. Bird put together an illustrious Hall of Fame career that earned him tremendous respect and admiration from his peers. One aspect that many have drawn away was his leadership ability as he anchored the Celtics’ strong run in the 1980s that saw them experience great success. However, there were entertaining stories along the way, such as Bird‘s bet regarding former big man Manute Bol.
Larry Bird’s legacy
Throughout his NBA career, Bird wasn’t one to lack confidence in his ability on the court and was one of the league’s best trash talkers.
It was part of his legendary status that made him one of the greatest players in NBA history. Bird had a strong competitive drive that helped fuel the Celtics to much success during his tenure with the franchise that included three NBA titles in five trips to the Finals.
Along the way, many memorable stories around him further built more prestige around his legacy. Among those intriguing anecdotes concerned a bet that he made to his teammates concerning big man Manute Bol.
Larry Bird’s bet on Manute Bol
The 1985 NBA Draft saw the arrival of vaunted Sudanese big man Manute Bol after being selected in the second round with the 31st overall pick by the Washington Bullets.
Bol had come off playing the 1984-85 season for the University of Bridgeport, which is a Division II school, where he averaged 22.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 7.1 blocks per game. His journey to the NBA fascinated many of his new peers that included the Celtics star forward. It’s a story that former star big man Bill Walton accounted in his book entitled “Back From the Dead,” where he recalled the entire situation.
Before the first matchup against Washington in the 1985-86 season, Bird had warned his teammate about not getting blocked by Bol, or they would end up on ESPN on SportsCenter. During the game, Walton had his shot blocked by Bullets’ big man, which led Bird to everyone having to place $100 before each matchup against Washington that would be awarded to the first person to dunk on Bol. (H/T Deadspin)
Larry called us all together and said that we all had to put $100 into a pool, and that the first one to dunk on Manute would get all the cash—$1,200.
When nobody was successful in throwing one down in Manute’s face the next time we played Washington, Larry announced that we were going to roll it over, and keep it rolling over until somebody did successfully throw one down on the big guy. And that each game would require another $100 contribution per man from our entire Celtic squad of twelve guys—until it happened.
The pot had grown to the point where it reached around $10,000 that led to Kevin McHale to hop aggressive hop in on the matter. Eventually, Robert Parrish won the winnings after dunking on Bol in what turned out to be another entertaining situation that Bird had laid for his teammates.
Larry Bird’s uncanny leadership
It’s another story that showed Bird’s tremendous leadership that helped bring the team together on the same page.
The Celtics had established themselves as one of the top teams in the league and were coming off their second NBA title with the star forward heading the charge. Bird had found another way to motivate the team to help them push through the regular season with a teambuilding goal in mind.
Bird was a player that was bred from different cloth that found unique ways to push his teammates and get the most out of them. Beyond that, it’s yet another story that adds another notch to his legendary status.