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Chopping Larry Bird’s biggest moments in his 13-year career into five parts is a difficult task, but we’re up for the challenge. We’ve dug deep into the Boston Celtics legend’s career and came up with the top five on-court moments of his career. Winning three straight MVPs, claiming three championships, and becoming the highest-paid NBA rookie ever are huge moments in Bird’s career, but we’re sticking with on-the-court moments. Here is an up-close look at Bird’s five most memorable moments with the Celtics.

No. 5: Larry Bird delivers the greatest play Red Auerbach ever saw

Larry Bird had just won Rookie of the Year and helped the Boston Celtics go from a 29-win team to one that finished with an NBA-best 61 victories. The next year, aided by a trade with the Golden State Warriors that brought back Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, the Celtics won the first of three championships in the 1980s by defeating the Houston Rockets in six games.

In the series opener, Bird took charge. He finished with 18 points, 21 rebounds, and nine assists in a 98-95 Celtics victory.

During the early part of the fourth quarter, Bird took a shot from the right elbow. Immediately after releasing the ball, he followed his shot, knowing it was off the mark. He raced in, grabbed the rebound, and threw it back up and in with his left hand, all in one motion.

After the game, Celtics GM Red Auerbach called Bird’s heads-up play “the greatest play I’ve ever seen,” according to

No. 4: Bird’s prediction comes true at the 1986 three-point contest

The three-point line wasn’t a big part of Bird’s game. In fact, the three-point line wasn’t a big part of the NBA in the early-to-mid ’80s.

During All-Star Weekend in 1986, a three-point shooting contest was introduced, with Bird accepting an invitation to participate. Bird outlasted the field, defeating Craig Hodges in the final round to win the first of his three straight three-point titles.

Before the contest, Bird walked into the locker room and famously asked his competitors who was coming in second place.

“Everybody’s sitting there and everybody’s real quiet,” Bird said in a YouTube video as former teammate Kevin McHale interviewed him. “You knew the guys, but you never were really around them. Nobody’s really saying anything, so I walked in, looked around, and it just came out. I had no clue I was going to win it.”

No. 3: Bird’s left-handed game

Bird was known for his trash-talking skills. He was better known for backing it all up. In a game against the Portland Trail Blazers during the 1985-86 season, Bird was up to his old tricks. The Celtics were on the West Coast and faced the Blazers two nights before they were off to Los Angeles to meet the rival Lakers.

“I’m going to play this one left-handed. Well, at least through three quarters,” Bird reportedly said before the Blazers game, per The Indianapolis Star. “I’m saving my right hand for the Lakers.”

Although Bird didn’t play the whole game left-handed, he scored 20 of his 47 points with his off-hand. Bird recorded a triple-double, with 47 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists in Boston’s 120-119 overtime victory.

No. 2: Larry Bird quickly erases Kevin McHale from the record books with a 60-point outing

On March 3, 1985, Kevin McHale put himself into the Boston Celtics record books. Nine days later, Bird replaced him.

In a game against the Detroit Pistons, McHale went 22-for-28 from the floor and made 12 of 13 free-throw attempts to score 56 points in Boston’s 138-129 victory. The 56 points broke Bird’s mark of 53 for most points scored in a game by a Celtics player.

“The points just kept piling up and I kept getting the ball in good situations and scoring it,” McHale said, per Yahoo Sports. “Before you knew it, I looked up on the board back at the old Garden, and they had the runner in the back that said ‘new Celtics’ team record’ and I was like ‘Wow. I didn’t even know I was capable.’”

McHale took himself out of the game with four minutes left and the game well in hand. Bird told him it wasn’t a good move.

“(McHale) had about three or four minutes to go in the game, and we were up by a pretty good margin, and he asked the coach to take him out,” Bird said. “I happened to be standing there, and I told him he better go for 60 because 56 is not enough, that will be broken.”

Nine days later, Bird lit up the Atlanta Hawks for 60 points and even had the players on the Hawks bench cheering him on.

No. 1: Bird literally steals the show against the Pistons


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While Bird’s 60-point outburst might be the most entertaining game of his career, his steal against the Pistons might be the most meaningful.

The Celtics were fighting to keep their reign alive as Eastern Conference kings. They had been to the last three NBA Finals, and the Pistons were chomping at the bit to knock them off. They met in Boston for Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, and the Pistons seemingly had this one in the bag.

With the series tied at two games apiece, the Pistons held a 107-106 lead and had possession of the ball with five seconds left after the ball went out of bounds off Celtics guard Jerry Sichting’s leg. Isiah Thomas hurriedly inbounded the ball, lofting a pass intended for center Bill Laimbeer. Bird alertly sprinted in front of Laimbeer, intercepted the pass, kept his momentum from carrying him out of bounds, and fired a pass to a cutting Dennis Johnson, who scored the game-winning layup with one second left.

Although the Celtics lost Game 6 in Detroit, they won Game 7 at home to return to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight time. Without Bird’s steal, it’s likely the Celtics’ Eastern Conference reign would’ve ended that year.