The Legend at 50: Bill Walton exclusive with Larry Bird
Posted Dec 6 2006 4:22PM
NBA TV will celebrate NBA Legend Larry Birds 50th Birthday on Thursday, Dec. 7, when the network dedicates a full day of programming to one of the greatest players in NBA history beginning at 9 a.m. ET.
The highlight of this all-day celebration will be The Legend at 50, an exclusive interview by Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Bill Walton with his former Boston Celtics teammate and current Indiana Pacers executive at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The following is a transcript of notable portions of the interview:
On Turning 50
Larry Bird: Birthdays are always special, no matter what age you are. A lot of people are asking me about turning 50. It's gone by too fast, Bill. I've been out of the game as a player for 14 years. It's sort of sad because I really don't feel like I ever played.
But turning 50 is no problem. I sort of enjoy it because as you get older, you mature a little bit more each year. It's exciting because now I can watch my kids grow, and know what they're going through as teenagers. It's been fun.
Negotiating His Celtics Contract
Bird: I did a lot of my own contracts with Red. It was really hard to go in there (into his office). He said, "Hey, your contract is up next year. This summer before you go home, let's talk." So I go in there and go face to face with Red and he says, "Look, I think you're the best passer in the league at your position, best scorer, your self-motivated." He'd go through all this and he says, "But the only problem is, we don't have any money. We can't pay you."
And I said, "Well, Red, I don't want to go anywhere. I want to stay here."
He says, "Well, we'll see what we can do. I'll talk to you later."
And before the season started, around the season, when it was getting ready to get started, we finally come to terms and move on.
The 1984 Championship Team
Bill Walton: The '84 championship team was a very special team but it appeared that you guys were down and out after Game 3 in Los Angeles. In the postgame lockerroom you called out a lot of your teammates as being sissys. Then things turned around. How calculated of a move was that?
Bird: You know, we got beat in the first game. In the second game, we got lucky and Gerald Henderson stole the crosscourt pass to tie it up to go into overtime and barely squeaked it out. Then we go out there and get beat by 32 points in Game 3.
Walton: You don't remember these losses at all.
Bird: [Laughs] But it was heart-breaking. We had an opportunity and we had a very good team. And to see us play like we were playing without being aggressive, without getting back on defense, watching the Lakers do their lay-up line, their fast break without somebody really stepping up and taking the initiative to put somebody down or make something happen. We had to do something to stir it up, and the play that Kevin McHale made on Kurt Rambis was right on time. It was something that needed to be done.
Walton: Oh, when Kurt bit Kevin's elbow.
Bird: It was one of those things where something has got to change. They were running us out. It was a close game at that time. It was a hard fought game. We ended up winning at the end. It really changed the tide. We weren't playing that well. So we go to Game 5, and we played great. We really beat them pretty soundly.
Then we go back to L.A., we had them down 16 points, they make a run and beat us at the end. So we had Game 7, which went back and forth. It was like '81 we were down 3-1 to Philadelphia and we came back and won the series. And then in '84, the Lakers should have swept us, but gave us enough breathing room to comeback and we were very fortunate to win that series.
Series-Clinching Game 6 of the 1986 Finals vs. Houston
Bird: Walking in that building, we had a sour taste in our mouths (after losing Game 5 in Houston). Knowing it was coming back to Boston, we were going to do everything we could to close it out.
Walton: Let me refresh your memory. After you said the fans in Boston wanted the blood of the Houston Rockets, you said 'If we don't deliver now, they're going to want our blood. Then you went out, as you've told many times, that was the best game you every played.
Bird: My concentration was so good that day. Everybody talks about the zone. Usually you get in a zone for maybe three or four minutes, or five minutes. But it seemed like that game I was so focused, I controlled that game for really the first three or four minutes after it started.
Ed. Note: Bird had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in the contest and earned Finals MVP
Bird Taking Over Games
Walton: That was the game you had 48 at the end of three and the Mavericks had never beaten the Celtics. And you were going for big numbers. The game was over, and they got hot -- the Dallas Mavericks did and they came back and beat us. You only had two points just two free throws in the final quarter.
Bird: Bill, the thing that you're missing here is in a timeout I asked you guys if you were going to play that night? Because you and Kevin (McHale) were messing around, and a couple of the other guys. I said, 'Hey if you guys aren't going to play that night, I'm just going to go for 100. And you guys laugh. And I went out there and was upset about it.
Then after the game, you came up and made this big talk about "can't be selfish out there."
I listened to it but when you got done, I said 'Look, just come to play. If you come to play, I'll involve you in the offense. But if you don't come to play, I'm going to win them all by myself.
Walton: I believe what I said to you in the locker room that day was "Larry, you had 50 tonight, but you were the worst player in the game."
Bird: And I was.
Walton: The next game, at San Antonio, you had 43 at the half and never looked back.