8.24.2008

The Goggles

On Sunday, March 6, 1988, Bird was off to a fine start against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had 13 first-quarter points and all was well with the world -- until he took off on a baseline excursion with 20 seconds or so left and was met by Dell Curry. He was struck -- accidentally -- in the face by a Curry elbow and sustained a hairline fracture of the orbital bone on the left side of his face.

Typically, Bird refused to quit playing. He went to the locker room for treatment, and returned to score 18 of his 31 points while suffering from double vision. How was this possible? "Basically," explained Dr. Arnold Scheller, "Larry saw a superimposed rim. He has a tremendous ability to adjust to adversity."

There was great speculation about whether or not Bird would play in the next game against San Antonio. Bird materialized at the midcourt circle, goggles in hand, to play the game. He shot 15 for 27 from the floor and scored 36 points. The Celtics needed them all to pull out a 119-118 victory over the Spurs. Shrugged Bird, who despised the goggles, "I really wasn't happy about wearin' 'em, but I don't want to be layin' around in the hospital."

He wore the dreaded goggles three more times, hating every nanosecond of the experience. He scored 30, 28 and 34 points with his neo-Kareem look. "I don't know how those guys who wear 'em all the time do it," he said. "Every shot I took, I didn't know if it would be an air ball or a swish."

There were a few more of the latter than the former. Wearing the goggles he despised, Larry Bird shot 55 percent from the floor in four games. In his first goggle-less game, he shot 8 for 19.

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