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Perhaps most interesting of all: I bet that if you asked self-described "NBA fans" which team(s) Bill Walton played for, the majority of them - perhaps the vast majority of them - would say "Portland" (where he won his championship) "Boston" (where he played with Bird and won his second championship, and how do we not have a thread on Larry Legend?) 

Well, now we do. :) (How is Larry Bird only four years younger than Bill Walton?!)

I don't have much to say right now, but I will include this video which is extraordinary:

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Bird is one of the greatest players in the game all time.  Doesn't matter where he is placed in anyone's list.  Put him on one of two teams of the top 10 players, divvy them up...and Bird's team will win some of those games because of his contribution.  His contribution can come from anywhere in the court.

I watched too much basketball in those days and recall watching that game.  Bird virtually had a triple double after the first half.  He was contributing to winning plays everywhere.  In the first quarter Hakeem had a couple of great plays and Houston was closing the gap.  Bird scored, made plays and the Celtic domination continued.  By the end of the half they were in a big lead.  It increased in the third quarter.  It was close to a rout, in the deciding game of the series, no less.   On the defensive side he got his hands on a lot of plays causing steals and turnovers.  That was noticeable.  Mid game he got the ball, went backwards!!!!  There weren't that many 3 pt shots in those days.  He hit that long basket.

Oh my that was a backbreaker and a ball buster.  Basically game over!!!!

Houston had the twin towers, Olajuwon and Sampson.  Plus they were young with bouncy legs and excellent skills.  The entire team was young and it felt like they were on their way to long term domination.  In that series the Celtic big line with Parish, McHale, strong reserve contributions from Walton, and then Bird--playing both big and on the outside...out bigged Houston.

Outside of that one game, here is something about Bird's impact on the Celtics: In the year before Bird joined the team they won 29 games and lost 53; the year before that they won something in the low 30's.  Immediately before Bird the Celtics were one of the worst teams in the league.  In Bird's first year the team won 61 regular season games and then during the entirety of his career they won either over 50 some games/year or over 60 some games/year, regularly and often competing for the best regular season record in the league while competing in the much tougher Eastern half of the league during that decade with much tougher teams.  (He was injured one year, scarcely appearing in less than 10 regular season games--the team won about 42 games or so that year)

The Celtics improved their roster over those years....but Bird of course was the big big kahuna...the guy that turned everything around...and he made his teammates better.

Bird was so dominant.  Dominant during what was probably the most competitive decade in the NBA.  He merits a thread of course.

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A couple of weeks before Bird's epic "I should have quit right there" finals game he played in another playoff game of note, in which some other pretty good players competed.  Bird, of course "did it all".  Lot of points (36), rebounds, assists, defense, etc.  Another guy also played well.  The league was very competitive at that time.

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On 2/11/2016 at 11:39 AM, DaveO said:

A couple of weeks before Bird's epic "I should have quit right there" finals game he played in another playoff game of note, in which some other pretty good players competed.  Bird, of course "did it all".  Lot of points (36), rebounds, assists, defense, etc.  Another guy also played well.  The league was very competitive at that time.

Wow, *what* a game. What a *great* time to be an NBA fan.

I remember commenting on Stephen Curry getting battered off-the-ball in his Christmas Day duel with LeBron James, but *these* guys were playing *football* - it was a melee out there, and people were being *mauled*. As badly as Curry gets beaten up, it's still "by today's standards" - but I guess if Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge could tolerate the physicality, then Curry could too; still, I think Walt Frazier had a point in this article you cite.

I cracked up when Bird and Gene Banks got into a tussle, and then Tom Heinsohn started singing, "Shall we Daaance ...?"

Man, these guys - all of them - were *great*. People talk about Scottie Pippen being such a great "Robin," but Kevin McHale was no weak sibling - arms over his head, flailing around, ducking and weaving and spinning to get to the basket, where he seemed to rarely miss, even in heavy traffic.

That outlet pass by Bird at 12:06 was incredible, and so was that horizontal shot by McHale at 10:36.

Jordan drops 63 at Boston Garden!

It says a lot that Larry Bird didn't help Sidney Green up at 6:19, but helped Michael Jordan up at 11:50 - that's about as close to "total respect" as you ever got from Bird (if you look closely at 11:52, the young Jordan flashed a big smile when he saw it was Bird who helped him up).

It sure didn't seem like Kevin McHale fouled Jordan at the end of regulation, but Jordan hitting both those free throws defines "clutch" - moments like these are what contribute to superstar status.

At the end of the first overtime, Jordan misses a buzzer-beater with 4 seconds left, then Bird misses one with 2 seconds left. Surreal, and if you count the end of regulation (when McHale questionably fouled him), that was Jordan's second missed buzzer-beater of the game.

And *who on earth* is Jerry Sichting? I don't even remember him, but - missed free throw aside - he was a strong role player in this game (4-5 from the floor, 8 points - that's a solid contribution).

Here's the box score from the game, and *what* a game! These videos you've been posting are like crack, and make me want to become a more detailed NBA fan than I currently am - when I was a kid, I had season tickets to the Terps back when they ran their three-guard offense (John Lucas, Mo Howard, and Brad Davis), then when I was a teenager, I'd go to the Capital Classic (*) every year (I saw Gene Banks play in it once - he was *very* highly sought coming out of high school), and would go to the Bullets games when they had Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Phil Chenier, etc. and next to tennis, basketball has always been my first love as a major spectator sport. Aside from current superstars, I've really lost my chops, but these videos are inspiring me to get back deeper into fandom.

(*) What amazing chutzpah, pitting DC's finest against the best from the rest of the nation. And sometimes, DC won - I remember seeing the game when Muggsy Bogues was MVP (DC got to choose a couple people from Baltimore), and damned if DC didn't win that year!

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Wow, *what* a game. What a *great* time to be an NBA fan.

I remember commenting on Stephen Curry getting battered off-the-ball in his Christmas Day duel with LeBron James, but *these* guys were playing *football* - it was a melee out there, and people were being *mauled*. As badly as Curry gets beaten up, it's still "by today's standards" - but I guess if Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge could tolerate the physicality, then Curry could too; still, I think Walt Frazier had a point in this article you cite.

In the 80's it was quite physical.  Similarly physical in the '70's  (think a wide bodied home team Wes Unseld pushing everyone around (and similarly strong wide bodied competitors))

In the 90's it got really vicious.  Brutal.  In the 2000's they tightened the rules and the game has become far less physical/football-like).  I'd like it more if they brought back the style that was dominant in the '70's/'80's but they would have to keep it from becoming goon like as in the 90's.  Meanwhile in the 80's you had teams like the Lakers, far faster/quicker and played with more finesse and less banging.  I suppose it varies based on team personnel.

Larry Bird did not shy from physical play.  He fit right in.

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In the 80's it was quite physical.  Similarly physical in the '70's  (think a wide bodied home team Wes Unseld pushing everyone around (and similarly strong wide bodied competitors))

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Wow, *what* a game. What a *great* time to be an NBA fan.

"the game" was a well documented playoff game between the Chicago Bulls with a young Jordan and the very very strong Celtics at the time.

Here is the thing about Larry Bird.  As referenced above in his first year he helped the Celtics improve their record from 29 victories the season before to 61 victories in Bird's first year.    I don't think or recall if there were other dramatic personnel changes that year...but Bird knew how to help his team win.  In fact I believe that jump from 29-61 victories was for many years the single greatest improvement in the NBA.   Thereafter over the decade Bird's Celtics were one of the dominant teams in the NBA....and they accomplished that in an extremely competitive and talented Eastern Division.

In Jordan's first year and for several years his team didn't improve that much.  Could be a lot of reasons...but in my experience there are 4 players historically that had that kind of a winning impact on their teams:  Bill Russell, the greatest winner in team sports; Bird, as described above; Magic Johnson (of course he joined a Laker team with Jabbar...but the team wasn't winning championships without Magic); and then in more modern times and still to this day, Tim Duncan.  Duncan's teams have basically been contenders for an NBA championship for what?  17 years or so???   That says something.

Michael Jordan, I believe was more skilled than any of them.  But they were better at winning.  It took Jordan several years to get that.  That is a critical difference.

Anyway, Bird is in rarefied air.  When he was at his healthiest and best his teams won a lot: in fact more than any other team during what well could be the most competitive period of the history of the NBA.  And he did everything well...he did it with a less than explosive physical skill set, but possibly among the 2 or 3 with the highest  basketball IQ ever.

Here is from my perspective.  I hated all teams from Boston.  All of them.  Any sport.  Freaking Larry Bird was so astonishingly good...I became a big fan.  Even Laker fans appreciated him.

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I have no idea why I didn't think of this until the other evening, when I was flying home from Chicago.

There was a Reddit thread entitled "How Good Was Larry Bird?"

Aside from reading the answers, I'll throw in another meaningless one - meaningless because you need to be even older to understand just how good Larry Bird was.

People here know that I worship Brooks Robinson, and that he was my childhood hero growing up - I used to watch him every day that I could. Brooks Robinson was so good at playing Third Base (defensively) that I will gladly go out on a limb and say that he was the greatest defensive position player of all time - again, I must stress that I'm talking about defense vs. offense: In baseball, there are two distinct measurements.

Every single day, Brooks Robinson would play a game, and there would be a couple of plays that made you get off the sofa, drop to the floor onto your knees, and scream (refer to David Foster Wallace writing about Roger Federer), and I watched Robinson play, day-in and day-out, probably one-thousand times. He would do things every single game that are currently on YouTube highlight reels - I pray to God that one day, Brooks Robinson is properly represented on YouTube, instead of just having highlight videos - he changed what the opponents did. For example, opposing teams stopped bunting down the third-base line (Rod Carew included), even though back around 1970, the bunt was considered as integral a part of baseball as the three-point shot is now considered in basketball, and Rod Carew was the equivalent to Stephen Curry in that regard.

Brooks Robinson is *never* mentioned in people's all-time Top Five baseball players (which inevitably, and deservedly) include Ruth, Cobb, Mays, and ... pick your other two. For Robinson to be included on everyone's Top Five list, he would have needed to have done the following: .330 lifetime batting average, 500+ home runs, and 2000+ RBIs; instead his career line was .267 / 268 / 1357 - respectable, but not even remotely close to Top Five material, and justifiably not so - it's not even Top Hundred material. But if he had .330 / 500 / 2000, he would be mentioned alongside Ruth, Cobb, Mays, and all of the other greats; instead, we're forced to say that he was the greatest "defensive" Third Baseman ...

... he was the Larry Bird of playing Third Base. 

Larry Bird was as good at playing basketball as Brooks Robinson was at playing Third Base - but only (in Robinson's case) speaking in terms of defense. However, Bird *was* as good at the all-around game of basketball as Brooks Robinson was at playing defense, and there's nobody else in the world I feel comfortable saying that about.

Bird couldn't run, he couldn't jump, and he played about the "whitest" game of basketball I've ever seen. Robinson couldn't run, he didn't have a strong arm, and he played about the "whitest" game of Third Base I've ever seen. But somehow, without having skills considered "fundamental" for greatness, he could do it better than anyone else who ever lived - his "Baseball IQ" (as they say about Bird's "Basketball IQ") was the best there's ever been, on defense.

One day, they'll show game-after-game-after-game of Robinson doing what he always did - just playing - and only then will people realize that Larry Bird was as good as Brooks Robinson, every single day, for about twenty years.

Manny Machado has gifts that Brooks Robinson never had - Machado could field a hard grounder, bend down to tie his shoes, maybe even eat a sandwich, and then stand back up and throw the runner out; Robinson could have never done that - he had to come out a couple hours before the game, study the natural grass - its cut, its moisture, the way it played - and adjust his game every single day, and so he did. 

How good was Larry Bird? 

Larry Bird was as good at basketball as Brooks Robinson was at playing Third Base - he was a savant, a once-in-a-lifetime player. No, he couldn't do it all, and didn't have a complete game, but he did things on a daily basis that nobody else could ever do, and probably that nobody else will ever do again. He was Albert Einstein, he was Ludwig von Beethoven, he was William Shakespeare. He was Brooks Robinson.

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I've seen this play - after Bird's brilliant pass, Gilbert was so stunned to receive it that he hesitated, ever-so briefly, in going up to the basket, and got his shot blocked before he got off the ground - the DePaul defender is eyeing Bird correctly - he has a fixed, mid-range stare, halfway between Bird, and his possible outlet.

 
After leading ISU to a perfect regular season, Bird and the Sycamores ran through the NCAA tournament. In this photo, Bird passes the ball to teammate Alex Gilbert during the team's semifinal victory over DePaul.
12 of 15 AP

After leading ISU to a perfect regular season, Bird and the Sycamores ran through the NCAA tournament. In this photo, Bird passes the ball to teammate Alex Gilbert during the team's semifinal victory over DePaul.

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