Larry Bird Once Spiked Cedric Maxwell’s Tea to Win a New Year’s Eve Drinking Contest Against His Former Celtics Teammate

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Former Boston Celtics teammates Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell pose for a photo

Cedric Maxwell must not have understood former Boston Celtics teammate Larry Bird’s affinity for putting back a few when he challenged Larry Legend to a drinking contest on New Year’s Eve in 1980. Nor did Cornbread appear to understand the lengths Bird would go to so as to win such a competition. Earlier this year, Maxwell told the hilarious story of the competition, one that featured “Greyhounds” and spiked tea.

Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell won a championship in 1981

Although Larry Bird gave the Celtics the transformative talent they needed to be contenders when he arrived in Beantown in 1979, Maxwell already held it down as one of the more promising forwards in the NBA.

Boston drafted Maxwell with the 12th overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft. He burst onto the scene in his sophomore season, averaging 19.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.

The 1-2 punch of Bird and Maxwell instantly made the Celtics contenders. Boston made it to the 1980 Eastern Conference Finals. Just one year later, following key additions like Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, the C’s were champions.

While Bird became one of the eminent stars in the NBA almost as soon as he stepped on the floor, it’s important to note that Maxwell earned 1981 NBA Finals MVP honors. He imposed his will on the series, leading the team in scoring at 17.7 points per contest while playing a pivotal role in keeping Houston Rockets center Moses Malone’s numbers down.

Maxwell asserted himself as an alpha in the Finals. He tried to do so earlier that season in a drinking contest with Bird, though things turned prickly for Cornbread.

Bird spiked Maxwell’s tea to win a drinking competition earlier in the 1980-81 season

Maxwell acknowledged just how foolish he had to be to challenge Larry Bird to a drinking contest. After all, as Maxwell said, Bird practically “grew up” drinking beer in Indiana.

Little did Cornbread know that Larry Legend also wanted to ensure victory at any cost.

The former Finals MVP told NBC Boston the story of his outing with Bird and eight others at a restaurant in Salt Lake City on New Year’s Eve 1980. Maxwell explained that he began to feel ill after sipping on drinks called “Greyhounds.” He tried to eat something, but described himself as feeling “woozy.”

The Celtics forward felt rejuvenated by the thought of having tea. There was just one problem: Bird spiked his cup with more liquor.

Maxwell said Bird put “four or five” nip bottles, also known as shooters, into his tea. Essentially, Maxwell drank straight-up vodka, with almost zero tea. He promptly vomited outside the restaurant.

Despite the questionable nature of Maxwell’s provocation, he said the story reminded him of the camaraderie of those Celtics teams. Unfortunately, his relationship with Bird is a complicated one.

Maxwell is hoping to bury the hatchet with Larry Legend

Former Boston Celtics teammates Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell pose for a photo
Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell pose for a portrait | Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell won two titles with the Celtics, entrenching themselves into Boston folklore forever. But the dynamic between the two remains a bit shaky.

Maxwell looked like the franchise’s star before the turn of the decade in 1979. However, Bird’s arrival brought an element of the “great white hope,” so to speak, to the Celtics. Maxwell talked about this notion with CLNS Media last year, per SB Nation. The other element to the complicated relationship is Maxwell’s somewhat unceremonious departure from the Celtics in 1985, as Boston traded Maxwell for an injury-riddled –but white — Bill Walton.

However, Cornbread is hoping to smooth things over. The two-time NBA champion, whose number has since been retired by the Celtics, said he laments that people feel he took potshots at Bird over the years. He told CLNS Media his only regret is not having a stronger relationship with Larry Legend, and that he hoped to patch things up with his former teammate soon.

Who knows, maybe Maxwell and Bird can even go out for a drink, just so long as Max avoids making another ill-advised challenge.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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