Larry Bird – One of the NBA’s Great Rivalries

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Larry Bird playing for the Boston Celtics vs Magic Johnson for the Lakers

Larry Bird playing for the Boston Celtics vs Magic Johnson for the Lakers (By Nick Antonini, Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0, image link: flicker, cropped derivative)

The pride of French Lick, Ind., Larry Bird averaged over 30 points and 20 rebounds a game as a senior at Springs Valley HS. His efforts earned him a scholarship to Indiana, but Bird had a hard time with the adjustment to college and the size of the city of Bloomington, the home of the Hoosiers. Bird ended up transferring to Indiana State where he became a college star. He led the Sycamores to the 1979 national championship game starting a rivalry with Michigan State’s Earvin “Magic” Johnson that would carry over into the NBA.

A Celtic for Life

Bird was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1978, a year before his senior season. After winning the ’79 Naismith Player of the Year award, Bird finally signed with the Celtics, a team he would lead to three NBA titles. Beginning as a rookie in the 1979-80 season, Bird emerged as one of the NBA’s all-time greats. Not only was he was selected to the NBA All-Star Game as a rookie, but he also won the league’s Rookie of the Year award. Bird also would go on to play in 12 All-Star games in 13 NBA seasons.

In addition to winning three NBA championships, Bird was the league’s Most Valuable Player three times winning the award in three straight seasons – 1984, 1985, and 1986. Bird and Wilt Chamberlain are the only NBA players to have ever won three consecutive MVP awards. In nine of 13 NBA seasons, Bird was named to the All-NBA First Team.

Larry Bird playing for the Boston Celtics

Larry Bird playing for the Boston Celtics (By Kip-koech, Licensed under CC BY 2.0, image link: flicker, cropped derivative)

The Celtics were a storied franchise that failed to make the postseason in 1978 and 1979. Bird made an immediate impact in Boston averaging 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds as a rookie. Boston won the Atlantic Division in Bird’s rookie season going 61-21 and wound up losing in the conference finals to Philadelphia. Boston would go on to qualify for the postseason in each of Bird’s 13 seasons making the NBA Finals five times.

One of the NBA’s Great Rivalries

The Celtics vs. Lakers rivalry of the 1980s was one of the greatest in all of NBA history. It started with Bird and his counterpart, Johnson, who Los Angeles selected with the first pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. Interestingly, during the entire decade of the 1980s, either the Celtics or the Lakers played in every NBA Finals. While Bird and the Celtics did win three NBA titles, they did lose two of their three NBA Finals appearances with the Lakers.

 

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