10. Salt Lake City. Feb. 18, 1985
`I already did enough damage'
Early in the fourth period, K.C. Jones came to Larry with some news. He had just been informed that Larry had 30 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and 9 steals in three quarters. Would he like to go back in to get that 10th steal and thus be able to tell the grandchildren about his quadruple-double? "Nope," he said. "I already did enough damage. Why go for it when we're up by 30?" Larry abused the Jazz for 12 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals in the first period alone as the Celtics jumped to a 34-10 lead.
Larry: "I remember saying it was no big deal about the quadruple-double. I said I could get one any time if I wanted to."
Even the 10 steals?
"That was before they changed the rules. Lots of times I had five or six."
9. Portland. Feb. 14, 1986
As if 47 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, and the game-winning basket with three seconds left in overtime weren't enough, Larry spiced this one by making seven lefthanded shots. Memorial Coliseum was always one of his favorite arenas, but this was his Northwest Picasso. So what was the deal with all the southpaw baskets? "I'm savin' my right hand for the Lakers," he said, alluding to the Celtics' next opponent.
Larry: "I told 'em I was workin' on that lefthand shot all summer to go at Michael Cooper, and I was just tryin' it out."
8. Milwaukee. May 17-18, 1986
Yup, a doubleheader. Games 3 and 4 of this playoff series with Milwaukee showcased the entire Bird package in one 24-hour spurt. On Saturday, he had seven assists in the first quarter en route to a 19-16-13 triple-double that included a phenomenal dive into a pile and sitting-on-the-floor feed to Kevin McHale for a dunk. "He gave me at least five baskets where I didn't have to do a thing," marveled McHale. "All I had to do was stand there." On Sunday, he blew the Bucks away with four straight fourth-quarter 3-pointers to seal the series sweep. "I hope," said Milwaukee coach Don Nelson, "the other Celtics realize what a privilege it is to play with Larry Bird."
Larry: "K.C. said if we swept we'd have three days off, and that's all I needed to hear. When the game was over, I drove straight to French Lick and I was fishing all day Monday."
7. Los Angeles. Feb. 11, 1981
He also cleaned the john and parked some cars
36 points. 21 rebounds. 5 assists. 5 steals. 5 blocks. One stretch of 15-for-17 shooting. Was there anything else? As a matter of fact, yes. Larry also stopped a couple of 3-on-1 fast breaks. With Magic Johnson (injured knee) watching from the LA bench, Larry put on a majestic basketball clinic at the Forum in what was supposed to be a hopeless game since the Celtics had lost an OT affair in Seattle the night before and hadn't arrived in LA until five hours before game time.
"He told me he was going to do it," said Magic. "He said, `Sorry, you're hurt. I want you to sit back and watch. I'm going to put on a show for you.' "
Larry: "No question that was a great game for me. I remember having rebounding rhythm and being just generally very active. Didn't I have five steals? I was all over the place that night."
6. Boston Garden. May 13, 1984
`His performance was without description'
It was Game 7 of a heated, emotional series with the Hubie Brown/Bernard King Knicks, and Larry was ready. Wrote Dan Shaughnessy, "Call it a quadruple-double: 43 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and a dozen standing ovations." Larry hit a 16-foot baseline fallaway some 14 seconds into the game, and that was the signal he was in complete control. Seven minutes later he got successive conventional 3-point plays on (a) a lefty banker high off the glass, and (b) a 21-foot swisher. "I knew I had it then," he said. "I just wanted to keep going." Hubie wished he had kept going out to North Station. "His performance was without description," rhapsodized the Knicks' mentor.
Larry: "I remember making that lefthanded shot right in front of their bench. Absolutely. That game was one of my highlights."
5. New Orleans. March 12, 1985
They fell off the Atlanta bench
Background: On March 3, McHale set a Celtics scoring record with 56 points. "He should have gone for 60," Larry said. Five games and nine days later, Larry torched the Atlanta Hawks for 60, not including a 3-pointer that was waved off. How hot was he? Larry had one blitzkrieg of 32 points in 14 minutes. How outrageous were some of the shots? On one, a couple of astonished subs fell off the Atlanta bench. He had continually fed McHale en route to his 56, and Kevin twice reciprocated, first by fouling Doc Rivers to stop the clock with 27 seconds left and Larry stuck on 56, and then by grabbing an offensive rebound and firing it back to Bird for a buzzer-beating foul-line jumper. "When I'm shooting like that," Larry shrugged, "no one can stop me."
Larry: "That was a Tuesday. I was sore all over because on Sunday I ran a road race. What I remember most was how much pain I was in. As for Kevin, yeah, I told him at the time he made a big mistake by not going for 60."
4. Boston Garden. May 22, 1988
Shootout at the OK Corral
It was as good a mano a mano duel as the NBA playoffs have ever seen. Fourth quarter, Game 7, Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Larry Bird vs. Dominique Wilkins. For three quarters, it was an even, high-level battle. In the fourth, "They each put their teams on their backs and said, `Let's go,' " said Atlanta coach Mike Fratello. Dominique had 15 of his 47 in the fourth, but Larry trumped him by shooting 9 for 10 and scoring 20 of his 34 in the 12 minutes as the Celtics won, 118-116. In one phenomenal stretch, they matched hoops on six consecutive possessions, three for Larry and three for 'Nique. Larry had the left hand going for three of the baskets (a banked scoop, a jumper, and a lefty drive) and he also found a streaking Danny Ainge for a 50-foot lefty touchdown pass. The Bird summation: "Hell, this is my building."
Larry: "To me, that was a one-quarter game. I really hadn't played well until that point. I remember stealing the ball a couple of times and getting some open jumpers to get my rhythm going."
3. Boston Garden. June 8, 1984
In the heat of the night
There was never, ever a night like it, not in this town, anyway. Game-time temperature: 97 degrees. Atmosphere: part revival meeting, part Mardi Gras. In ridiculous, almost inhuman physical conditions, Larry shot 15 for 20 en route to 34 points and 17 rebounds as the Celtics take a 3-2 series lead over the hated Lakers. "It was a 48-minute steam bath," snorted Pat Riley. Also a quintessential Bird performance in which mind triumphed over matter. Bird set the tone with 8 points and 9 rebounds in period one. Bird invigorated the crowd with three 3-pointers. Bird had the Lakers reaching for the superlatives. "He did let down once," joshed LA assistant coach Dave Wohl. "He didn't run to the bench during a timeout."
Larry: "Everybody complained about the heat, but I felt great out there. I remember running by the Laker bench and seeing them sittin' there sucking in oxygen and I felt like I could run forever. The crowd was really into it that night."
2. Boston Garden. June 8, 1986
Here, there, and everywhere
The Celtics had been pushed around by the Rockets in Game 5, and they asked Larry what to expect in Game 6. "I think everything's gonna be just fine," he declared. Game 6 started and Larry Bird plugged himself into every aspect of the game. He shot. He rebounded. He passed. Most of all, he harassed. He was never more of a total defensive pest than on this particular afternoon. The final totals of 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists do not begin to reflect the scope of his utter ubiquitousness in this game. (He even won a jump ball from Hakeem Olajuwon.) "I saw him take on five guys by himself," gushed Houston's Jim Petersen. It was the ultimate all-around basketball "How-To." Reflected Larry, "That was the only game I thought I was totally prepared for."
Larry: "I may have come out too pumped up. You know, the Game 5 fight, Bill Fitch, and all that. I was so pumped I even missed two early free throws. Defensively, that definitely was one of my better games. By that time we knew their stuff, and they were going to Hakeem a lot. I was able to anticipate."
1. Boston Garden. May 5, 1991
`I can't leave those guys out there all by themselves'
Injury-wracked, he was already deep into the autumn of his career. He had hit Indiana with a triple-double in Game 1 before checking into New England Baptist Hospital to go into traction for his aching back. And now, with 4:23 remaining in the second quarter of a deciding Game 5, he had stumbled going after a loose ball and had smacked his head against the hallowed parquet. "He's coming back in the second half, and they'll go crazy," Indiana coach Bob Hill warned his team. Right he was. Bird jogged through the runway, they indeed went crazy, and Bird took over the game, throwing in jumpers and post-ups while starting three fast breaks with rebounds and outlets. He finished with 30 points while shooting 12 for 14 on twos, and for sheer drama it was, and is, untoppable. "All I know is that they'll be talking about him for a hundred years," sighed Hill.
Larry: "When I hit the floor, I thought I broke my jaw, because I couldn't move my mouth. I was in a lot of pain, but I could hear the crowd out there and I thought, `I can't leave those guys out there all by themselves.' "
You talkin' to me?
And what about Larry? Which game's memory brings a smile to his face?
Richfield, Ohio. April 25, 1985
A bad elbow kept him in the Holiday Inn while his teammates lost Game 3 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was bad enough. But when the Cleveland fans and moronic electronic media had the audacity to cry, "We want Bird!" Larry needed no more motivation to suit up for Game 4. "They don't know what they're saying," he snarled. "They don't want me. They don't want no part of me. I'm gonna throw both barrels at 'em." It was vintage WWF. It was vintage Larry Bird. He made sure he came out early for warmups. He waved to the crowd. He took a lap around the floor. And then he buried the Cavs with 34 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists. Talk about John Wayne clearing the room . . . "I loved it," he said. "I loved every minute of it."
Larry: "I remember one of the referees came up to me before the game and said that if the crowd came out of the stands they would protect me. Oh, I had the fans riled up, but I knew we'd play well because I knew the other players would back me up. I was ready to play that night."