How Larry Bird would fare in today's NBA.

How Would Larry Bird Fare in Today’s NBA?


        In the modern era, many regard Larry Bird as one of the best basketball players ever. Though, only those who witnessed him compete in the 80s seem to realize how great of a player he truly was. When discussing basketball greats today, Larry Bird appears to be slighted more than any other player from his era. Some pundits dismiss Bird as unathletic, believing he would not be nearly as good in today’s NBA. In addition, others state that his personal success resulted from circumstances based on the team and era he played in. Despite the naysayers, Larry Bird is one of the most talented NBA players of all time. 

Background

        Larry Bird was born in West Baden, Indiana, on December 7, 1956. His childhood was difficult, with his mother working two jobs to support Larry and his five siblings. Bird would set the all-time scoring record at Springs Valley High School, where he averaged thirty-one points and twenty-one rebounds as a senior. He received a scholarship to play for legendary coach Bob Knight at the University of Indiana. Though, he found it difficult to adjust from his small hometown to a large city, resulting in Bird dropping out after less than a month. 

        Soon after returning home, Larry Bird’s father tragically committed suicide. He attended a local college, Northwood University, while working various jobs for about a year before deciding to attend Indiana State and dedicate himself entirely to basketball. As a result, Bird led the Sycamores to an 81-13 overall record in three seasons at Indiana State University. In 1979, Bird led Indiana State to the National Championship with a 33-0 record. Ultimately, Michigan State defeated them in the championship, led by legendary point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson. 

The NBA Career of Larry Bird

        As a prospect, Bird took it personally that he was not rated higher on draft boards. Boston had a record of 29-53 in the 1977-78 season. In the 1978 NBA Draft, they selected Larry Bird sixth overall. Nobody expected the young man with long hair and lacking athleticism who wore Converse basketball shoes to make a significant impact immediately. Though, Bird would make a career out of proving his doubters wrong. In his rookie season, he led the Celtics to a 61-21 record, finishing with thirty-two more wins than the previous season. As a result, he was awarded the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award following the 1979-80 season, where he averaged 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. 

        Even as a rookie, Bird was an elite trash talker with an uncanny ability to fluster opposing players. Larry Bird remained with the Boston Celtics for his entire career, from 1979 to 1992. During his Hall-of-Fame career, the Celtics won three NBA titles, with Bird winning Finals MVP twice. Finally, listed below are his career accolades, which show how special of a player he was.

  • 3 MVP awards
  • 12 All-Star appearances
  • 10 All-NBA teams
  • 3 NBA Titles (including 2 Finals MVP’s)
  • 3 All-Defensive teams
  • 1979-1980 Rookie of the Year
  • 1981-1982 All-Star Game MVP
  • Inducted into NBA Hall-of-Fame in 1998, and again in 2010 as a member of the “Dream Team”
  • 1 of 3 players in NBA history to be named MVP three consecutive times

Larry Bird in Today’s NBA

        Offensively, Larry Bird did not have any noticeable weaknesses. He had smooth and unpredictable moves both inside and outside and finished well with both hands. Defensively, Bird was very underrated, despite making three All-NBA Defensive Teams. His instincts and tenacity made up for his lack of lateral quickness. In addition, one overlooked asset of his game was his ability to make his teammates better. He was an elite passer with one of the highest basketball IQs in the history of the NBA. These traits would help him adapt and thrive in any era of basketball. Furthermore, his offensive skills have become even more valuable in the modern era.

        In today’s NBA, Bird would use his incredible offensive versatility to overwhelm defenses. Just like in the 1980s, he could score today in many different ways. Bird would be highly effective in small-ball lineups, utilizing his elite outside shooting. In bigger lineups, he would have his way with defenses inside the paint, where he was known to rebound with ferocity. In an era where hand-checking and more physical defense were allowed, Bird was one of the most challenging players to guard in the entire league. Today’s NBA is far less physical, which has resulted in more scoring. As a result, these rule changes would likely make him an even better player today. It is difficult to imagine any era in the NBA’s history where Larry Bird would not be a Hall-of-Famer.

Conclusion

        Larry Bird competed and succeeded in one of the most challenging eras of basketball. The 80’s Los Angeles Lakers, with all-time greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, are still among the greatest teams ever. That Lakers team won an astonishing five NBA titles in the 1980s. Several other great teams were in the league during this time, such as Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets, Dr. J’s Philadelphia 76ers, and the young Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. In conclusion, it is fair to say that Larry Bird would be successful in any era of basketball. He had a unique skill set that would be more valuable in today’s game. Ultimately, Larry Bird deserves more respect from the younger generation as one of the NBA’s g.o.a.t, or greatest of all-time.

F.A.Q.

How many rings does Larry Bird have?

        In his historic career, Larry Bird won three championship rings with the Boston Celtics.

What were Larry Bird’s career stats??

        Larry Bird finished his career with averages of 24.3 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game, and 6.3 assists per game.

References

Larry Bird stats, height, weight, position, draft status and more. Basketball Reference. (16 April, 2023).  

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