Larry Bird is an all-time great basketball player who won a number of championships throughout his career and earned the nickname “Larry Legend”. His offensive game was the ultimate combination of finesse and big-play ability. Bird was the first player to ever average a triple double in the NBA and also holds the record for most points in a game with 47. Bird’s offensive game was so good that it was said that “Larry Bird can shut down a player.”
It was the 1985 NBA Draft, and the Boston Celtics had the #2 overall pick. They had just traded for their franchise icon, Larry Bird, to team up with Kevin McHale, and they wanted to make sure they made a bold pick. They needed a player who could guard Bird and keep him from dominating the game. They needed a player to shut him down.
Larry Bird once revealed the only player he could shut down in the NBA. It was a member of the Boston Celtics during Bird’s playing days and Larry said he couldn’t score against him. Larry also said he couldn’t beat him in a one-on-one contest. Bird was right. He couldn’t score and he couldn’t beat him one-on-one. The only way Larry ever scored against that player was with a three-point shot. He could never get open in the NBA.
Larry Bird may not have been the most athletically talented player in the NBA, but he was certainly one of the most dominating. All of it was done by the former Boston Celtics great. The ball was in Bird’s hands when it mattered most, and he’d beat you with a fadeaway 3-pointer or a precise pass for an assist.
Bird was also a self-assured individual. He believed he could outscore anybody, but he did admit during his playing days that there was one guy who could “really shut me down.”
During the 1986 NBA Finals, Larry Bird identified the man who could stop him.
On June 10, 1984, during Game 6 of the 1984 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers at The Forum in Inglewood, CA, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics is defended by James Worthy and Michael Cooper of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo courtesy of Jim Wilson/Getty Images/The Boston Globe)
In the 1986 NBA Finals, the Celtics led the Houston Rockets 3-2 in the series. In Game 5 in Houston, Boston was unable to complete the comeback. The Celtics may have underestimated the Rockets in their last encounter, losing 111-96 after an abysmal effort.
Rockets center Ralph Sampson was dismissed for punching Celtics guard Jerry Sichting in Game 5, which was rough and nasty. Later, Sichting claimed he couldn’t tell whether “it was a punch or a mosquito bite.” According to Sports Illustrated, the Celtics practice session before Game 6 was tough.
Back then, Celtics coach K.C. Jones recalled, “I had to call it off before they killed each other.”
Bird only took 13 shots in Game 5. It wasn’t because of Robert Reid’s or Rodney McRay’s defensive strategies. Bird didn’t give a damn about any of them.
Bird remarked of the Los Angeles Lakers guard, “Michael Cooper isn’t in this series, and he’s the only one who can truly shut me down.”
Larry Bird was more difficult to defend than Michael Jordan, according to Michael Cooper.
Cooper and Bird were both selected in the same draft class. Bird was selected in the first round of the 1978 NBA Draft, while Cooper was selected in the third round. Together, they won eight NBA championships. Cooper was selected to the All-Defensive team for eight years, while Bird was awarded MVP three times. Cooper was tasked with defending Bird when Cooper’s Lakers faced Bird’s Celtics.
“You had to be conscious of Larry’s presence on the court because he was going to make something wonderful happen,” Cooper recalled in a 2014 interview with MassLive. “I played against some of the greatest players in the game, including George Gervin, Andrew Toney, Dr. J., and a young Michael Jordan, but Larry would have to be the best.
“You knew if Jordan had the ball, you were OK with it until he gave it up. Larry may be able to go grab offensive rebounds. He has the ability to make a fantastic pass. He was the epitome of attacking prowess. You had to protect him whenever he was on the attacking side of the court. That makes him the greatest opponent I’ve ever faced.”
Cooper described Bird as a big talker who was laser-focused when it mattered most.
Trash-talking has always gone hand in hand with birds. Cooper said that he often heard it from Bird. When the game was on the line, particularly in those NBA Finals, Bird acknowledged that he shut up and played.
Cooper described him as a “big-time s— talker.” “However, I believe that when he played us (in the finals), he wasn’t just playing one player; he was playing the Lakers as a whole. He realized that instead of speaking, he needed to let his game speak for him.
“There were a few instances on the court when he shouted random stuff, but he was more focused on what they had to accomplish offensively and defensively against us. There was no time to converse. He had no choice but to participate.”
Cooper said that when his time with the Lakers came to an end, he had the opportunity to play in Boston.
He stated, “Once my 12 years were over, I had chances to travel to Boston, San Antonio, and Philadelphia.” “It didn’t make sense to go to another club after all I had built up with the Lakers during those years. It’s very uncommon for a player to enter the league and spend his whole career with the same team. That was something I wanted to do.”
During the Celtics vs. Lakers games, Bird and Magic Johnson are frequently connected. If you look carefully, you’ll see that it was more Bird vs. Cooper.
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When it comes to preventing an opposing team from scoring, there are many factors to consider, including the opponent’s offensive style, the ability of the team’s defenders, and the mental makeup of the team’s star players. But, one factor that is often overlooked is the type of player that the opposing team is playing.. Read more about larry bird news and let us know what you think.
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