While every era has its own stars, the 1980s was an NBA golden age. Michael Jordan, of course, burst onto the professional scene; guys like Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are all legends in their own right. Then, there was Larry Bird and his Boston Celtics.
Despite those stars and the differing style of play—games in the 1980s could become physical wars of attrition, especially in the paint—Larry Bird isn’t living in the past. In fact, he really likes the way that the modern NBA game is played.
Larry Bird’s rise to legendary status
These days, Larry Bird is nothing short of a living legend. In college, however, the forward’s career hit an early roadblock.
After an impressive high school career, Bird earned a scholarship to the University of Indiana. When he arrived on campus, however, the forward didn’t feel at home; he left Bloomington before ever hitting the hardwood with the Hoosiers.
Bird headed back to French Lick and, believe it or not, began working as a sanitation man; basketball, it seemed, was a thing of the past. Indiana State University basketball coach Bill Hodges, however, couldn’t forget what the forward was capable of. He paid Bird a visit and, after some urging, convinced the forward to return to the hardwood.
With the Sycamores, Bird grew into a legitimate star. He played three seasons of NCAA action, averaging 30.3 points per game. The forward also claimed the 1979 National Player of the Year crown; he also led Indiana State to the 1979 NCAA title game, losing to Magic Johnson and Michigan State at the final hurdle.
Larry Bird became a true star with the Boston Celtics
On the back of that NCAA success, the Boston Celtics selected Larry Bird with the sixth-overall pick of the 1979 NBA draft. While there was some contractual drama—the forward could have returned to college and, barring a catastrophic injury, become the first-overall pick in 1989—Bird eventually signed on the dotted line.
That decision turned out to be a boom for the Celtics. During his first NBA season, Bird averaged 21.3 points per game, cruising to the Rookie of the Year title; that success, however, was only the beginning.
On the whole, Larry Legend spent 13 seasons in Boston; while injuries eventually slowed the forward down, he still posted a 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game stat line for his career. The forward also won three consecutive NBA MVP titles and lifted three Larry O’Brien Trophies as an NBA champion.
The Boston Celtics star really likes the modern NBA
Given that he played in the 1980s, when physicality ruled the day, it would be understandable if Larry Bird felt like the modern NBA had gotten a bit soft. In reality, though, the living legend sits on the complete opposite side of the aisle.
In February 2018, Scott Horner of the Indianapolis Star shared Larry Legend’s views on modern basketball. Rather than believing that modern stars are coddled, Bird appreciates that defenses can’t hold and grab with impunity anymore.
“I really like the game now. I really think they cleaned it up as far as the grabbing, the holding, the cheap shots,” the forward explained. “When you’re out there playing, you like to have freedom, and they have that now.”
No matter the era, however, Larry Bird would have been a star. If he could thrive despite holding, grabbing, and cheap shots, Larry Legend could probably dominate today.