Larry Bird is 65 years old and still collecting NBA honors. The Boston Celtics legend was recently notified, with three others, that their names will be present on various postseason awards. Bird, Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy, and Oscar Robertson will each have their name on a newly designed trophy honoring players and teams who excel in the conference finals.
The four learned of the honors during a conference call hosted by deputy league commissioner Mark Tatum. Bird, who seemed surprised by the honor, reacted in Larry Bird-like fashion.
Larry Bird and rival Magic Johnson were instrumental in reshaping the NBA
Bird and Magic have been linked since their classic NCAA matchup in the 1979 NCAA men’s title game. Although Bird was drafted a year before Johnson, they came into the NBA together. Bird held out when he was drafted and played his final college season. The Celtics selected Bird sixth overall in the 1978 NBA Draft and held his rights until the ’79 Draft. He signed a deal just before the deadline.
Not only did Bird and Magic bring their personal rivalry into the NBA, but they also rekindled the Celtics/Los Angeles Lakers rivalry that had dwindled after the Wilt Chamberlain/Bill Russell days.
With Bird and Johnson in the league, either the Celtics or Lakers reached the NBA Finals every year in the 1980s. They squared off against each other in the championship series in 1984, 1985, and 1987. Despite being outplayed much of the series, the Celtics won in 1984. Magic and the Lakers got revenge, winning in ’85 and ’87.
With the rivalry, came more exposure to the NBA. The game grew in popularity and the NBA became a global event. Bird and Magic have been credited for saving the league which had been on a downward trend in the late ’70s.
Bird’s reaction to his latest honor is just what you’d expect from the Celtics legend
Bird spent 13 years in the NBA, earning NBA All-Star honors in 12 of them. The one year he didn’t earn the honor came during the 1988-89 season when surgery on both heels limited him to six regular-season games.
Bird also earned Rookie of the Year honors after putting up 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds in his first year. He also was a three-time MVP, winning it three straight seasons from 1984-86. Bird was also a three-time champ. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.
On Thursday morning, the league announced Bird was getting another honor. In the conference call, Tatum said one standout player will be named the Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP. The Western Conference Finals MVP honor will be named after Johnson.
The Eastern Conference championship trophy will now be named after Cousy, a former Celtics point guard. The Western Conference champion will get the Oscar Robertson trophy.
Video captured Bird’s reaction when Tatum made the announcement.
“Thanks, Mark,” said Bird after hearing the news. “I just wish I could win me one of those Magic Johnson trophies. That would be the highlight of my career.”