What was so great about watching Larry Bird was you actually felt like every shot he took had a chance of going in.
Boston.com’s Chad Finn writes:
Roaming the basketball court during his heyday, Larry Bird was a genius, an artist, a purist, and perfectionist, an ingenious passer, deadeye shooter, savvy rebounder and sly defender. Of course, that’s just the abbreviated list of attributes. Ego-puncturing trash-talker definitely should have been mentioned sooner.
During the 1984-85 season, Bird was 28 years old and all of those powers — visceral, intangible, and virtually unprecedented and unmatched – were operating at peak levels. Bird averaged 28.7 points and 10.5 rebounds that season, hit 42.7 percent of his 3-pointers, 52.2 percent of his field goal attempts, and 88.2 percent from the foul line.
No one in the NBA played more minutes. No one in the NBA played better minutes. He won his second of three straight NBA Most Valuable Player awards, receiving 73 of 78 first-place votes.
Thirty years ago, Bird submitted one of the most memorable performances not just of that marvelous season, but his entire career, though it should be noted that he does not consider it one of his favorites.
“Fans and you guys think in terms of points, and I get that,” said Bird in a recent interview. “But my favorite games are the ones in which I did a lot of different things to help us win the game.”
On March 12, 1985, Larry Bird set a Celtics franchise record by scoring 60 points in a 126-115 win over the Atlanta Hawks. It broke the record held by teammate Kevin McHale, who dropped 56 on the Detroit Pistons just nine days before.
You notice a lot of Larry’s big, huge games are against Atlanta? That’s because Larry lit up every time he was going up against Dominique. Larry just tortured him, because he knew Dominique could not play a lick of defense. Larry would just go right at him. Right at him. He knew he could beat him off the dribble, hit the fadeway, make that little dribble-drive and then back off for that wing shot. I remember him saying once he also knew that halfway through the shot process, Dominique would cheat and start to head down the floor.
Bird got his record 57th point on a free throw, which brought a very high high-give from McHale. And points 59 and 60 came after McHale pulled down an offensive rebound of a Bird miss and kicked it back out to DJ, who fed a cutting Bird for the perfect punctuation mark, a foul line jumper at the buzzer.
But it was a shot that came a few moments before – one that didn’t count – that is remembered more than any of Bird’s 22 made field goals that did count. With 14 seconds left, Bird catches a pass in front of the Hawks bench, takes one dribble to his left, and launches a step-back jumper with Rickey Brown draped all over him. The shot falls through the net just as Bird, nudged by Brown, falls into the lap of Hawks trainer Joe O’Toole. The shot did not count — a foul was called on the floor – but that makes it no less amazing. As Hawks announcer John Sterling shouts “Larry Bird! Larry Bird!” while proclaiming it the greatest shooting performance he has ever seen, the players at the end of the Hawks’ bench – particularly Levingston – can’t even pretend to contain themselves now. They fall all over each in giddy amazement. Only later did we find out the real reason for the reaction: Larry Bird called his shot.
RIVERS: He said ‘in the trainer’s lap’ coming down the court, which meant it was going to be a three and it was going to from deep. Then he said, ‘who wants it?’ Then I think Rickey Brown, I’m not sure who it was, ran out after him, he shot this high rainbow, it goes in, Rickey bumps into him — and accidentally knocks him on our trainer’s lap. So it was exactly what he said, it was an accident but it was almost fate. They show a shot of our bench, Cliff Levingston and Eddie Johnson are standing up giving each other high fives. It was pretty awesome.