Kevin Durant Was Right To Choose Larry Bird As His All Time Teammate
I played a ton of basketball growing up in the 1970′s but the pro game was not on my radar. It wasn’t until the 1980′s when I was flipping channels on my remote that I happened to tune into a Boston Celtics game and I saw Larry Bird diving on the floor–during the regular season!–for a rebound as if he was diving into a pool of water head first. He then dished the ball off to a teammate who scored. The only other athlete I’ve ever seen hustle like that was my all time favorite, Jimmy Connors. It wasn’t just his hustle that drew me in. I could instantly see that Bird and the Celtics played with great cohesion and intelligence. I’ve been hooked on hoops, the Celtics in particular, ever since.
I closely followed the remainder of his career and came to this conclusion: Larry Bird is the biggest impact player, ever, in college and pros combined. He took Indiana State College to the NCAA Finals with virtually NO future NBA-level talent for teammates–only one guy very briefly made it.
He went to a Celtics team that was in the cellar the year before and helped them become an instant contender his first year, winning 60+ games; they won the championship his 2nd year.
When he sat out in 1989 having both feet operated on, the C’s were only average. Two seasons later at age 35 the C’s started the season 29-5 before Bird had back surgery. During those games Bird’s Celtics beat Jordan’s Bulls and Barkley’s 76ers.
Before Birds major injuries and up until 1988, many experts thought Bird was the greatest player of all time. But people tend to remember Bird the way he was in his final 2 or 3 seasons when he was still excellent but not super nova great.
In comparison, Michael Jordan’s Championship Bulls teams were a 700 club without him. When he left to play baseball they made it within one shot of making it to the NBA Finals. Bird lifted 500 clubs to the championship level. That’s what separates him from virtually everyone else.
When you had him on the floor, you had instant scoring–inside and out in his prime–you had rebounding, assists, steals, etc.
Bird said that if he had to pick the best player for an 8 year period he’d choose Magic over Jordan. I’d say the same thing is true of him. His best 8 years are arguably the best 8 years of basketball ever played.
Bill Russell was the greatest champion in college and the pros. But no one other then Bird carried such a lackluster group of teammates to an NCAA Finals and no one else has turned a 500 pro team into instant championship contenders.