Larry Bird talks, the world listens. The highlights (it’s Larry Bird. There are a lot of highlights):
On competitiveness: “I just think that my opinion about basketball, the way I was taught, was when you step on the court, you play to win. Now, if you’re not supposed to play to win, then they shouldn’t keep score. If they didn’t keep score in these games, I wouldn’t have played as hard as I did. But I do think this is our job. We know that we’re going to be hurting years down the road. [Russell Westbrook] knows that he’s going to be hurting years down the road, but he can’t help it. He has to play that way to be effective, and he knows that.”
On tanking: “It makes me sick to my stomach. For somebody that’s been in this league for over 30 years, I don’t think that’s the way you do things, but that’s my opinion. Everybody else has got their opinion. I’ve read in the past here where people thought we should lose on purpose. I don’t believe in that. I’ve never believed in that. If I ever get that way, I’ll be out of the game.” “This is a competitive league. These players are paid large sums of money to perform at a high level. And when you come in and tell them, “We’re tanking, and we’re not playing to win tonight,” what does that say for your league? It is what it is, but my opinion of it is, play to win. That’s the way it is.”
The Legend summed up perfectly in two quotes right here. Giving 100% all the time regardless of score or situation or trouble down the road. He physically can’t help but compete with everything he’s got. Take the foot off the gas and get a better draft pick? Can’t do it. Stop diving for loose balls while wearing a 40-pound back brace, play a few more years, and maybe avoid years of physical pain? Nope. There is no blanket statement of what decision is right or wrong for a team or individual in those situations, but he’s true to himself and his desire to win over all else, and that’s beautiful.
On the last game he played: “I think it was me, Chris Mullin, Rik Smits and Derrick McKey against Al Harrington, Austin Croshere, Jonathan Bender and I can’t remember who the fourth one was (Jeff Foster was a rookie at the time), and we beat them pretty good. It was the last time I played, because they didn’t knock me down on the floor. I fell on the floor. I was tired (laughs).
Rick [Carlisle] didn’t tell you about the time two little kids were out here, and we were leaving the arena and he said, “Why don’t we stop and beat those two little guys? Let’s go.” They were probably 13 or 14 years old. He threw me the ball and I took off running hard, and I pulled a hamstring. I think it was the year before that 4-on-4 game. I was gonna quit then (laughs). I had never had a pulled hamstring before.”
A) You know that 44-year-old Bird spent all game abusing and trash talking 22-year-old Al Harrington because he was the biggest, baddest dude on the court. Wouldn’t surprise me if Harrington wasn’t right for a month after the emotional devastation of that game.
B) Those two kids who got to run with Larry and Rick Carlisle, even if it was for a second before Bird pulled up lame, are the luckiest kids in the world. If they still aren’t using that story every time they’re out at the bar or meeting someone new to this very day they’re fucking up.
On his 60-point game: “It wasn’t that good of a game. I like the hard-fought, scrappy games, pound it inside. It was just a loosey-goosey game. It was a pretty close game, as I remember. We weren’t up 20, 25, but we were up 10 the whole way, and it just wasn’t a good game. I ran a 5-mile race two days before that, and actually, I was very sore. My legs were really sore. I wasn’t tired or anything, but I was really sore. I knew I was gonna play that night. I just didn’t know how effective I was going to be. But once I started going, I was making shots. But it just wasn’t a fun game to play in. It wasn’t my type of game.”
“Oh that, 60-point game? Yeah, I wasn’t really about that. Pretty boring, not enough physical violence. Oh, and I had just run a 5-mile road race a couple days before so I wasn’t quite at a hundo p.” Unbelievable. Road race, drop 60, be bored with it. He probably spent the morning before the game doing a little landscaping with his push mower, too.
On when he knew he had it going for his 60-point game: “I knew I had it when Kevin McHale scored 56 a couple weeks before (on March 3). I knew I was gonna get there one day. (Bird told reporters, “I’ll break that record in no time.” And he did.) But Kevin left that game with I forget how many minutes left. He could’ve had a lot more.”
Larry still talking shit to this day is just the best. Saying he knew he’d get to 60 as soon as McHale got to 56 a couple weeks beforehand is just perfect. No goddamn way that someone other than him was going to set that mark.
On trash talking: “Yeah. I don’t know. Some of the stories I remember. Some of them I don’t. It’s probably just nervousness, talking. But if I had something to say, I said it. But if you knew our team, I thought Cedric Maxwell and Kevin McHale talked more junk than I did. Danny Ainge, too. They were always talking.”
What’s he gonna do, remember every last bit of trash talk? Every time he told someone he was gonna hit a three in their face from the corner and then did it? Every time he totally demoralized somebody who thought they had a chance to stop him? That’s borderline impossible when you’ve got a record like Larry’s. Larry gonna Legend.
PS: On trash talking (continued): “Kevin McHale, one time, did one of the dirtiest things anybody can do to an opposing player. He told his buddy, a college friend, a teammate (at one point) at the end of the game in Golden State we were up pretty big — and we were just getting ready to go out of the game — and Kevin told him when he came in, he said, “When you get the ball in the low post, you just turn and shoot it over me, and I’ll just act like I’m defending you.” Sure enough, they threw it in there, he turned and Kevin batted the shot about six rows up into the stands. And I mean I felt so bad for the guy, and the guy was pissed. And I went over to (Celtics coach) K.C. Jones and I said, “Get me out of here. This kid’s out of control, this kid’s out of control.” It was the worst thing I’d ever seen on the basketball court, but that’s why I remember it to this day. You don’t do that to your friend (laughs).”
Just a hilarious story that needed to be included in this blog. The 2015 version ends with the dude who got swatted posting some pissy pic on Instagram after the game saying some bullshit about loyalty.
PPS: Here you go since you know you’re just gonna watch Bird clips for the rest of the day.