Larry Bird

Larry Bird won his first NBA championship with the Celtics in just his second season.


The biggest news of the season came a full four months before the season started. On June 9, 1980, Red Auerbach pulled off the type of trade that had earned him a reputation for thievery in his more than three decades in the league. Auerbach dealt the first and 13th picks in the 1980 NBA Draft to Golden State for the third pick in the 1980 Draft and four-year veteran center Robert Parish. The Warriors selected Purdue center Joe Barry Carroll with the first pick and tabbed Mississippi forward Rickey Brown 13th. The Celtics took forward Kevin McHale of Minnesota, and thus added Parish and McHale to a frontcourt that already featured Larry Bird and Cedric Maxwell. In one trade, Auerbach had acquired a frontcourt for the next decade.

Thus, the NBA's 35th season started with the Celtics in a strong position just over a year after a 29-53 finish in 1979. The Lakers, meanwhile, were dealt a big blow when Magic Johnson suffered torn cartilage in his left knee just one month into the season, forcing him out of 45 games. As a result, the Lakers failed to win the Pacific Division and were knocked out of the Playoffs in the First Round by Houston, which made it all the way to the Finals despite a 40-42 record in the regular season. Moses Malone, the 25-year-old center already in his seventh professional season, averaged 27.8 ppg and led the NBA in rebounding with 14.8 rpg. The Celtics swept Chicago, defeated Philadelphia in seven games after trailing 3-1, and overmatched Houston in six games to win their first title of the Bird-Parish-McHale Era.

In conjunction with the NBA's 35th Anniversary, pro basketball writers selected their "All-Time NBA Team." It included Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Julius Erving, John Havlicek, George Mikan, Bob Pettit, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, and the coach was Red Auerbach.

BIRD'S SHOT FOREVER ENSHRINED IN CELTICS LORE
A shot by Larry Bird late in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals remains a staple of highlight videos. Bird launched an 18-footer from the right side, knew instantly that the shot was off, hustled in to rebound his miss, caught the ball as his momentum was carrying him to the baseline, switched the ball to his left hand in mid-air and swished a 12-footer. The Boston Garden faithful fell about the place.

"It was the one best shot I've ever seen a player make," Auerbach claimed.