Grampa Celtic Goes to the Quote Bank with Larry Legend
Over the years, Larry Bird was asked his opinion on a variety of matters. Sometimes he offered a comment even when he wasn't asked. He always let you know where he stood on almost any subject, and in issuing professional judgments, he was always in possession of a quick wit and dry sense of humor.
For example . . .
On shooting: "Funny. I never had to worry in college, but in the pros I find I need to hit two or three straight to get my confidence up."
On shooting, Part 2: "Everybody worries about my shooting but me. I go out and work on it in practice, and I know it will come back. That's exactly how I feel about it."
On the offensive psyche: "If a guy like Max (Cedric Maxwell) or Robert (Parish) can score, then you've got to get him the ball. He can't be out there for 12 or 14 minutes busting his hump and never seeing the ball, because it will get him down. It hurts. I'm an offensive player: I know."
On his grammar and such: "You'd have to go down to French Lick and that general area to know the grammar. If you're going to be around people all the time, it's only natural you pick up their way of talking. It's a very small, limited town. You don't need a lot of grammar. Half the time you can communicate with hand signals."
To (then teammate) Chris Ford upon hearing him singing "We are Family": "If we are, you're the grandfather."
On his passing: "I broke my ankle and had to sit out almost my entire sophomore year. When I came back, I began throwing these fantastic passes I had never thrown before. I have no idea where it all came from, but there I was, throwing all kinds of passes. I remember being in the locker room after the first day the next year and guys saying, 'God, Larry, where did you learn to pass like that?' Suddenly, I had a whole new way to play."
On passing, Part 2: "A smart pass can hurt more than anything. Sometimes if someone plays good defense and you make a good pass, that's just as frustrating as giving up a basket."
On shooting: "I love to shoot at the Garden. And once I'm out of a slump, I usually come out pretty good."
On winning first MVP in 1984: "I knew when I came into the league that this was going to happen some day."
On winning first title: "I was younger then. Now I know what it really takes to get here, but at that point I thought it was easy."
On Magic: "Magic is beyond description. His game is perfect. He's a perfect player. There's not much else you can say."
On Magic, Part 2: "He just wants to do whatever it takes to win. People say that if you're starting a team you'd take a dominating center, but if I were starting a team I'd take Magic, because with the two of us, you wouldn't need a dominating center."
On Michael Jordan, after watching him get 63: "Michael is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I didn't think anyone could do to us what Jordan has done in the first two games . . . I think it's just God, disguised as Michael Jordan."
On what Jordan does for an encore: "If he went from 49 to 63, does he expect to score 77 next? If he scores 77, I'll retire."
On being Bird: "I can't say I don't like making money. I like being secure, but it's strange when you have all this money but you can't go into a mall and spend it."
On put up or shut up: "You can talk all the game you want, but words don't mean nothin'. Puttin' the ball in the basket does."
On the Celtics after LA playoff blowout: "We need to go to the hospital and get 12 heart transplants. That's the first thing. Until we get our hearts where they belong, we're in trouble. We're a team that plays with its heart and soul. Today the heart wasn't there."
On Red Auerbach's reaction to the same game: "If we keep playing like this, Red's going to be switching to cigarettes."
On hearing Kevin McHale say Bird's the most unselfish player in the league: "He's just gettin' to figurin' that out now?"
On scoring 10,000th point: "I guess it means I'm gettin' old, or I've thrown up a lot of jumpers."
On trailing in All-Star voting (he would later prevail, of course): "I don't care. If I was a fan, I don't think I'd vote . . . I don't care if I start or not. I don't like All-Star games anyway. I like to be named, but I don't consider 'em my kind of games."
On hustle, etc.: "When I look at the box score and see that I've only got five rebounds, it's sad. I know I wasn't hustling the way I should."
On autographs and celebrity in general: "I dislike signing autographs and I always did. It's really a waste of time. It's an insult. I think Dave Cowens was right when he said it'd be better just to say hello and shake hands. I don't mind when it's kids. It's when adults shove cameras in your face and drunks come by, that's bad . . . I found out there must be a lot of mean little kids in the world. People always say to me, 'If I don't get your autograph, my son's gonna kill me when I get home.' There's a lot of parents afraid to go home because their kid's gonna shoot 'em."
On Celtic lore after Akeem Olajuwon explains his lack of knowledge ("I am not from here"): "As a team we'd like to give Akeem a history lesson in three weeks he couldn't learn in Nigeria . . . But it didn't mean much to me when I first came in here, either. Most of these flags don't have anything to do with me. I'm more interested in the two I had something to do with. Bill Russell is old now. He's just sittin' back and doin' color."
On Boston congestion: "Traffic. You can't go anywhere in this town without all kinds of traffic. I'm tellin' you, if it weren't for the traffic, I'd stay here all year long 'cause there's so much more to do."
On the '86 title: "I went from rock bottom (back and elbow woes) to the top of the game in a month and a half. That's why this championship means so much more to me."
On a certain (then) Dallas rookie who had just had 17 points and 12 rebounds: "Hey, why didn't you tell me about (Roy) Tarpley? I never even heard of him."
On Bruce Hurst's losing arbitration: "The Mormon Church will be on the front steps picketin'."
After taking seven shots in a playoff game: "French Lick's shut down today. The whole town's in mourning. Larry Bird had seven shots last night."
On losing Saturday-Sunday playoff games to Detroit: "I got a punch in on Laimbeer. That's all I got out of it."
On Rick Mahorn, circa 1982: "Everybody knows about the way he plays. That's his style, and they're not going to do anything about it. Even if they fine him $500 or $600, he goes right back and does it again. That's not basketball. But Robert and I aren't going to start a fight. There are too many other ways to beat him."
On McHale playing with a broken foot in '87 Finals: "You're in the Finals, and they say, 'If you don't want to play, you don't have to.' That takes all the pressure off them, and it makes it look like Kevin's decision. I'd say, 'Go on home.' "
On McHale in general: "We've been trying to push the ball up for 10 years and we haven't succeeded yet. With McHale, it takes him 20 seconds just to run upcourt, and by the time he gets upcourt, 20 seconds have gone on the (shot) clock, so that doesn't leave us much time to do anything."
Bird on McHale in general, Part 2 (but seriously, folks): "I get mad at Kevin sometimes. He scores when he gets into position, but sometimes he just won't. He's not crazy about being pushed. Sometimes he doesn't realize what a good shooter and what a good ballplayer he is. So I don't pass to him until he gets on that spot."
Bird On Bill Walton: "You saw what happened the other night when he hit that hook in the fourth quarter? We didn't score for 5 1/2 minutes. He hit us with the stun gun."
On Bill Walton, Part 2 (asked how his elbow was): "I don't think I have the Bill Walton Syndrome yet."
On Bill Walton, Part 3: "If the crowd would stop cheering him and start booing him, maybe he'd play better."
On the acquisition of Jim Paxson: "He's going to fit in fine. Now all we have to do is wait for Bill Walton to come off vacation."
On Bill Walton, Part 4 (but seriously, folks): "I always thought Bill Walton was a great player, but I really haven't seen much of him since I've been playing, and I didn't know what it would be like to play with him. I can't believe how strong and intimidating he is and how hard he plays. He probably plays harder than anyone on the team right now."
On his place in basketball history: "To tell you the truth, I look at the game a lot different than other people. I didn't play basketball when I was young. I didn't play a lot in the seventh grade or eighth grade. So I don't look at myself as the best player in the world. I look at myself as a player in the NBA. I figure if I play well, it's because I play hard. Some nights the ball's not going to go in the hole. Some nights you're not going to live up to your capabilities. I just try to play as hard as I can, and when I have a bad game, I'm going to walk away and say I played as hard as I could."
On the chances of the Celtics coming back from playoff deficit: "Put yourself in my position. I know when I'm up 3-1, I say it's over."
On ARCO Arena cuisine: "Nine years in the league, and this is the first time I've ever had cuisine like this."
After ho-hum dispatch of 76ers: "It was just your basic boring NBA game."
On the source of a nasty shoulder scratch: "Tell Dudley Bradley to cut his fingernails."
On going all-out to win it all: "One thing I've learned in this league is that if you've got the horses, you'd better go out and win it. Win the championship every chance you go. It's like money in the bank."
On Bill Laimbeer not making the All-Star team: "Good. Then I won't have to worry about getting on the bus and him saying, 'Good morning, Larry,' and me saying, 'Good morning, Bill.' "
After watching Laimbeer refuse a key shot in a playoff game: "If I were 0 for 300, I would have taken that shot. He was makin' them all night."
On hearing that Robert Parish was suspended one game for punching Laimbeer: "What? For that good deed?"
On a rock-'em, sock-'em night in Indiana: 'It wasn't basketball out there for a while. But either you put up with it or you walk off the court, and they pay me too much money for me to do that."
To Jim Paxson after hitting the latter with a slick pass as Larry was backing in Charles Barkley: "You should have cut five seconds sooner."
On K.C. Jones' retirement: "The thing I'll remember best is how he treated us like men. He's one of the nicest people I've ever met. He treated us all the same. He never lets his ego get in the way of players doing their jobs. He lets everybody play the style of ball they want, and players have a lot of input . . . I hope the players know how good we've had it."
On the Madrid McDonald's Open: "I enjoyed every minute of it. As soon as we got here, the players realized everything was going to be first class. The games themselves were a new experience. You realize you were playing in Spain, in front of their crowd. I enjoyed it, and I think all our players would do it again."
On Brian Shaw off to Italy as even he returns from heel surgery: "Would you rather lose Brian Shaw or get Larry Bird back?"
On becoming an older player: "When you get older, you know the league and you know who you are playing against every night. The young guys come in with the big names, and they compare them to me, and it's a challenge. It used to be you played to get to the top of the hill; now you play just to hold your ground."
On work ethic and how practice makes perfect: "The guy who won't do his schoolwork misses the free throw at the end. In high school we used to shoot fouls at 6:30 in the morning before class, but one of my best friends never showed up. In regional finals our senior year, he missed three one-and-ones in a row and we lost in overtime. I never said nothin' to him. I just looked at him, and he knew."
On work ethic and practice makes perfect, Part 2 (on the eve of a seventh game with Milwaukee): "I believe that if you work hard, things will come out all right in the end. A lot of guys -- the day of the seventh game -- will come out early to shoot. Never did it all year, but now they are. That doesn't get it. I believe that you work hard all year and games like this is when it pays off. That's what my high school coach said, and I still believe it." (Bird scored 31 and the Celtics won the game).
On why he always wanted the last shot: "This year (1989-90, following heel surgery) has been a difficult year for me, but I guarantee 'ya I'd rather have the ball in my hands at the end of a game than anyone else. I've shot too many jump shots in my life. I've shot millions more than them other guys. I'll go out there and take my chances."
On why you play: "My goal is to win a championship, and that's the way it's been since I started. I've said that more than one time. I've said that probably 20 times. If I don't win a championship I'm dissatisfied and I feel like I didn't do my job . . . There's teams out there lookin' to come in second or third, or these teams are happy just to win 50 games. That's a bunch of bull, and they're always going to be losers. They've got that stinking mentality. You got to come to win. The ultimate goal is to win a championship. There's going to be 26 losers this year. One winner."
To health food devotee Pete Maravich: "Why don't you eat some American food?"
On postgame routine: "I must be the only person in the world who picks up his pizza at Domino's."
On difficulty of developing role players: "Once you get a taste of glory and play a little bit and then don't play for a week or two, you gotta answer to your friends: 'What happened? One time you were a starter or played 20 minutes a game.' Then all of a sudden you get that peer pressure and you think you had your chance and blew it, and you're not going to get to play again. Happens to every team."
On why he'll be spending the All-Star break his rookie season at Terre Haute: "Naw, not this year. I don't belong, but I will next year." (He made the first 3-pointer in All-Star history and was a key member of the winning East squad.)
On hobnobbing with the media: "I didn't even know that writers went on the road with the team."
On why closing practice was a good idea: "This is why we don't want you (reporters) in here. We're kicking their (second team's) butts every day."
On being selected as team spokesman when receiving '81 championship rings: "A smart move on their part."
On positive thinking, circa 1991: "Our fans are supposed to expect us to win. It's no different than it was in the '80s. We're the Boston Celtics and I still expect us to win every game."
On feeling out of shape after an injury hiatus: "I want my total game back, and I want it quick."
On toughest opponent (1991): "Just put down everyone in the league. I can't guard anybody."
On who really is the toughest man to handle: "This year it's (Charles) Barkley. I hate the guy. He can pass, can shoot, can drive. Barkley goes to the basket well and most times it's for a 3-point play."
On being caught with Arthur Schlesinger's "Robert Kennedy, His Life And Times.": "I read a couple of books over the summer. That shows you how bored I was."
On taking the big shot, after making a big shot: "It was a big shot, but just a shot you hit or you don't. If you're worried about missing a shot at the end of a game, you shouldn't be taking it."
On winning (yet another) player of the month award: "It's nice to be recognized, but I wish they'd give you something worthwhile. They give you a gym bag, and I've got 150 of those. I wish they'd give you a car."
On whining: "In this league sometimes you feel you have an excuse to lose. When you think that way, you're always gonna get beat."
On a new hero: "In the United States, every young kid wants to dunk like Dee Brown."
On what he wants: "I'd rather shoot like Larry Bird."
On practice: "The thing that bothers me most about being injured is that I can't practice. I'm not happy when I can't practice. I used to go out there thinking I'd make every shot because I'd always have the practice. I didn't, but I always thought I would. But, without practice, I really struggle out there."
On tickets: "I tell people to go to the box office and talk. I don't want anything to do with tickets. I got into that in college and I'd spend all day trying to get tickets. I tell people that three years ago there were only 8,000 people coming here and they could have bought tickets then. If they didn't, then it's their own fault."
On the 1985 All-Star Game in Indianapolis: "I bought 50 tickets and I could have used 300, but at $35 a pop you have to draw the line somewhere."
On being a fraidy cat: "Mark Eaton is the only player who has ever intimidated me."
On McHale's 56-point game to establish a Celtic record: "That won't even last until the next game." (It lasted three games and nine days until Bird scored 60 against Atlanta.)
On McHale only scoring only 56: "It's Kevin's own fault. He should have gone for 60 that day, and I told him that."
On whether or not he'd be thanking the NBA players for voting him their MVP: "I'll thank 'em by hitting some jumpers in their face."
On why the Lakers have suddenly become a physical team: "Maybe it's the water here. Maybe they're gettin' it from Mexico."
On why it's smart to give him the rock: "When I get the ball in my hands, I can do more."
On playing away from home: "Anybody can play at home. I'll tell you what. My little brother could come in here with us and blend in. But put him on the road . . ."
On playing away from home, Part 2 (after scoring 32 in the Garden): "You guys just don't get it. I expect to play well at home. Great players play well on the road, and that's where I want to play well. You want to play well at home in front of your fans because they deserve a show, but the road is where you make your team. That's where you separate the men from the boys."
On playing away from home (during a particularly down time): "If this continues, maybe it's time to make some changes and get some people who will play hard every night, and not just in front of their families."
On playing in Indianapolis: "It means more to me to win here. I think I want the ball more and the guys know that. It's just a great feeling to play well here. I definitely don't want to let anyone down."
On the meaning of it all: "There's a secret to playin' basketball. but I ain't tellin' what it is."
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