Larry Bird Professional career
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Larry Bird Professional career
Joining the Celtics (1978–1979)
Bird was selected by the Boston Celtics with the sixth overall pick in the 1978 NBA draft.He did not sign with the Celtics immediately; instead, he played out his final season at Indiana State and led the Sycamores to the NCAA title game.
Celtics General Manager Red Auerbach publicly stated that he would not pay Bird more than any Celtic on the current roster, but Bird's agent Bob Woolf told Auerbach that Bird would reject any sub-market offers and simply enter the 1979 draft instead, where Boston's rights would expire when the draft began on June 25, and Bird would have been the likely top pick.
After protracted negotiations, Bird inked a five-year, $3.25 million contract with the team on June 8, making him the highest paid rookie in sports history.Shortly afterwards, NBA draft eligibility rules were changed to prevent teams from drafting players before they were ready to sign, a rule known as the Bird Collegiate Rule.
Battles with the Lakers and MVP tenure (1983–1987)
Bird was named MVP of the 1983–84 season with averages of 24.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.8 steals per game.In the playoffs, the Celtics avenged their loss from the year before to the Bucks, winning in five games in the Conference Finals to advance to the Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
In Game Four, the Lakers—led by Bird's college rival Magic Johnson—were on the verge of taking a commanding 3–1 series lead before a flagrant foul was committed on Kurt Rambis that resulted in a brawl and caused the Lakers to lose their composure.
Boston came back to win the game, eventually winning the series in seven.Bird was named Finals MVP behind 27.4 points, 14 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game.
On December 9, 1984, Bird recorded 48 points to go along with 14 rebounds and 5 assists in a 128–127 win over the Atlanta Hawks. On March 12 of the 1984–85 season, Bird scored a career-high and franchise record 60 points in a game against the Atlanta Hawks.
The performance came just nine days after Kevin McHale set the previous Celtics record for points in a game with 56. At the conclusion of the year, Bird was named MVP for the second consecutive season behind averages of 28.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game.Boston advanced through the playoffs to earn a rematch with the Lakers, this time losing in six games.
In mid-1985, Larry injured his back shoveling crushed rock to create a driveway at his mother's house. At least partially as a result of this, he experienced back problems for the remainder of his career.
Before the start of the 1985–86 season, the Celtics made a daring trade for Bill Walton, an All-Star center with a history of injury.The risk paid off; Walton's acquisition helped Boston win a league best 67 games.
One of Bird's career highlights occurred at the 1986 NBA All-Star Weekend when he walked into the locker room at the inaugural Three-Point Shootout and asked who was going to finish second before winning the shootout.
On November 27, 1985, Bird recorded 47 points to go along with 12 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in a 132–124 win over the Detroit Pistons.On March 10, 1986, Bird scored 50 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 5 assists in a 115–116 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
With averages of 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 6.8 assists, and 2 steals per game, Bird became just the third player in NBA history to win three consecutive MVP Awards.In the playoffs, the Celtics lost only one game through the first three rounds en route to a match-up against the Rockets in the Finals.In Game 6 of the Finals series, Bird recorded a triple-double of 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists as the Celtics won the Finals series 4 games to 2 against the Rockets.Bird averaged 24 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game for the championship round.
The '86 Celtics are commonly ranked as one of the greatest basketball teams of all-time, with the Boston Globe's Peter May and Grantland's Bill Simmons listing them at number one.
Throughout the 1980s, contests between the Celtics and the Lakers—both during the regular season and in the Finals—attracted enormous television audiences. The first regular season game between the Celtics and the Lakers in the 1987–88 season proved to be a classic with Magic Johnson banking in an off balance shot from near the three-point line at the buzzer for a 115–114 Lakers win at Boston Garden.
Despite the intensity of their rivalry, Bird and Johnson became friends off the court. Their friendship blossomed when the two players worked together to film the Converse commercial, which depicted them as archenemies. Johnson appeared at Bird's retirement ceremony on February 4, 1993 and emotionally described Bird as a "friend forever".
Late career (1988–1992)
The 1987–1988 season was the highest-scoring season of Bird's career. In Game 7 of the 1988 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, Bird shot 9 of 10 from the floor in the fourth quarter, scoring 20 points in that quarter and lifting the Celtics to a series-clinching victory over Atlanta. Bird finished with 34 points. His effort helped to overcome a 47-point performance by Atlanta's Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins remarked, "The basket was like a well. I couldn't miss. He couldn't miss.
Bird's 1988–89 season ended after six games when he had bone spurs surgically removed from both of his heels. He returned to the Celtics in 1989, but debilitating back problems and an aging Celtic roster prevented him from regaining his mid-1980s form. Nonetheless, during the final years of his career, Bird maintained his status as one of the premier players in the game. In his final three seasons with the Celtics, Bird averaged over 20 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists per game, shot better than 45% from the field, and led the Celtics to playoff appearances.
After leading the Celtics to a 29–5 start to the 1990–91 season, Bird missed 22 games due to a compressed nerve root in his back, a condition that would eventually lead to his retirement. He had off-season surgery to remove a disc from his back, but his back problems continued and he missed 37 games during the 1991–92 season. During the 1992 Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bird missed four of the seven games due to recurring back problems.
On August 18, 1992, Bird announced his retirement. Following Bird's departure, the Celtics promptly retired his jersey number 33.
In the summer of 1992, Bird joined Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and other NBA stars to play for the United States basketball team in that year's Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.It was the first time in the United States' Olympic history that the country sent NBA players to compete. The "Dream Team" won the men's basketball gold medal. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame called the team "the greatest collection of basketball talent on the planet".
Early success (1979–1983)
In his rookie season (1979–1980), Bird immediately transformed the Celtics into a title contender. The team improved its win total by 32 games from the year before he was drafted and finished first in the Eastern Conference.In his career debut, Bird recorded 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in a 114–106 win over the Houston Rockets.
On November 14, 1979, Bird recorded his first career triple-double with 23 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists in a 115–111 win over the Detroit Pistons.On November 23, Bird recorded his first 30-point scoring game (along with 11 rebounds and 3 assists) in a 118–103 win over the Indiana Pacers.
With averages of 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game for the season, he was selected to the All-Star Team and named Rookie of the Year. In the Conference Finals, Boston was eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Before the 1980–81 season, the Celtics selected forward Kevin McHale in the draft and acquired center Robert Parish from the Golden State Warriors,forming a Hall of Fame trio for years to come; the frontcourt of Bird, McHale, and Parish is regarded as one of the greatest frontcourts in NBA history.
Behind Bird's leadership and Boston's upgraded roster, the Celtics again advanced to the Conference Finals for a rematch with the 76ers.Boston fell behind 3–1 to start the series but won the next three games to advance to the Finals against the Houston Rockets,winning in six games and earning Bird his first championship. He averaged 21.9 points, 14 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 2.3 steals per game for the postseason and 15.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 7 assists per game for the Finals.
At the 1982 All-Star Game, Bird scored 19 points en route to winning the All-Star Game MVP Award. At the conclusion of the season, he earned his first All-Defensive Team selection.He eventually finished runner-up in Most Valuable Player Award voting to Moses Malone.
In the Conference Finals, the Celtics faced the 76ers for the third consecutive year, losing in seven games.Boston's misfortunes continued into the next season, with Bird again finishing second in MVP voting to Malone and the team losing in the Conference Semifinals to the Milwaukee Bucks.