Bird and McHale took the Celtics to the next level during the 1980s by embracing their complementary skills, which resulted in one of the most successful five-year runs in NBA history. They won three consecutive MVP awards and the 1986 NBA championship in dramatic fashion, which included a triple-overtime thriller and an unforgettable triple-double performance by Bird in Game 7.
Larry Bird is the greatest basketball player of all time. But, he is also the greatest basketball player that ever played the game. His combination of size, shooting touch and overall athleticism has been unmatched by any athlete throughout history. During the early eighties, Bird and his Celtics teammate Kevin McHale were the cream of the crop of the NBA.
The Boston Celtics, by many accounts, has one of the best dynasties in NBA history. It’s a well-known fact that the Celtics were the first team to make it to three straight NBA Finals, and they’ve been well-compensated for their great performance—making them one of the most well-loved and successful teams in the league’s history.
Before even walking onto the basketball floor, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale had the upper hand on many of their opponents. The Boston Celtics teammates were mentally tough, having won three NBA championships together. Not only were the Boston combo brilliant, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a pair of players in the league who were more self-assured.
With the Boston Celtics, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale won three NBA titles.
Larry Bird #33 and Kevin McHale #32 of the Boston Celtics celebrate a goal against the Washington Bullets at Capital Centre in Washington, D.C. in 1982. Bird and McHale were two of the most confident players in the NBA. | Getty Images/Focus on Sport
As a rookie in the NBA, McHale may have been pampered. In his first season with the Celtics, he was a part of a group that included a young Bird and a solid center in Robert Parish, who had just been acquired in a trade with the Golden State Warriors. He not only signed with a good team, but he also helped them win a title in his first season.
McHale played in 81 of the 82 games he appeared in during his rookie season, averaging 20.1 minutes per game. As a rookie, the 6-foot-10 big from Minnesota averaged 10.0 points and 4.4 rebounds. He, Bird, and Parish would go on to become perhaps the greatest frontcourt three in NBA history, if not all-time.
In 1984 and 1986, the Celtics won their second and third championships, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets, respectively. Bird and McHale each played 13 seasons in the NBA and were selected to 19 NBA All-Star games.
Larry Bird and Kevin McHale were never short on confidence.
Even as a rookie, McHale never thought the person he was defending was superior. That helped him a lot during his NBA career, and he is now a Hall of Famer. In 1991, he mentioned his high degree of self-assurance. After his youthful teammate Dee Brown won the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest, the subject came up.
In 1991, McHale told Sports Illustrated, “That dunk contest will be wonderful for that child because the one thing he needed was confidence.” “I know Dee seems confident on the surface, but you can tell he isn’t totally sure by the way he hangs his head out the window now and then. He talks the talk, but he doesn’t live the walk.”
McHale should be aware. He and Bird may have been the two most self-assured players they’d ever seen.
“I’m not sure what it was with Larry and myself — maybe we were ill or something — but we didn’t go through that,” McHale said. “I’m sure Larry didn’t, and I’m sure I didn’t. Every time I went out there, I felt like I was better than the other man. Even when I was a complete newbie.”
Bird’s self-assurance bordered on arrogance.
Bird’s self-assurance was always apparent. In his day, he was one of the greatest trash talkers, and he usually backed it up. He thrived in front of a crowd. The more boisterous the opposition audience, the more enraged he became.
On Feb. 12, 1991, when Boston was in town to see the SuperSonics, this was the situation. Bird was fouled with time running down, putting his side up 112-111. As he approached the line, the hostile throng tried all it could to divert his attention away from him. Eddie Johnson of Seattle did his part by waving to the crowd to get the crowd going.
It was a complete failure. Boston won 114-111 thanks to Bird’s two free throws.
Bird stated after the game, “I learned a long time ago to drain out crowd noise.” “I’m not hearing it.”
He said that he hadn’t taken many free throws lately (just one earlier in the game), but it didn’t seem to bother him.
“I wasn’t feeling very confident at the line since I hadn’t shot many free throws recently,” Bird said. “However, I’d rather have myself than anybody else at that line.”
Larry Bird Took His Team to French Lick, and Bill Walton Left With a Souvenir and an Odd Impression of the Town
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