I know you’re probably tired of Larry Bird stories after —
Ha-ha-ha! Good one, right?
No one ever gets tired of Larry Bird stories.
Not that the reminder was necessary, but I got a very welcome one while working on the oral history of his 60-point game that ran here on Thursday on the occasion of its 30th anniversary. That sucker ran 5,500 words, give or take a few adverbs, and it could have been double that length.
Turns out that Bird’s former teammates – and foes, too – love talking about that time and Larry Legend’s feats as much if not more than we do.
Part of it is due to nostalgia, I’m sure, and wistfulness and pride too.
But most of it is because he was a wonder and a marvel even to those remarkably talented athletes who shared the court with him. They love talking about Larry Bird.
So here’s one more story that was shared with me. I tried to shoehorn this one into Thursday’s piece, but it really didn’t fit the narrative. It comes from Rick Carlisle, the current Dallas Mavericks coach and former Celtics guard. Carlisle was assistant on Bird’s staff with the Pacers from 1997-2000 and later returned as head coach.
The story Carlisle tells is about a basketball game that has no box score, no clips on YouTube, and cannot be found on Hardwood Classics on NBA TV. But man, do we wish we could have seen this…
“This is a story no one has ever heard, but the last time Larry played basketball was, I believe, the 2000 season. He and I and a couple of the older veteran guys on our team with Indiana took on four of the younger guys. Best 2-of-3, halfcourt game of 4 on 4.
“Larry hit the game-winning shot in the third game to give us the win. And what we did” – Carlisle pauses and laughs at the recollection – “he fell on the floor in exultation, and we’re piling on him. It was great.
“The young guys were just shaking their heads, like, ‘look at these old fools.’
“It was a vintage Bird shot, too. Step back, high arc, all net. The same stuff that he had that night [against] Atlanta.”
Carlisle is asked what the lesson is there. Once you’ve got it, you’ve always got it somewhere?
“That, and the other point is, know when to walk away,” he said. “After that day, he never went back on the court to play again.”