Few players ever have had an instinct for the game of basketball to match that of Larry Bird, and rarely was that instinct better reflected than in a play he made during the opening game of the 1981 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets.
The upstart Rockets, led by Moses Malone, led 57-51 at halftime and the game was still close in the fourth quarter when Bird sank what Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach called "the one best shot I've ever seen a player make."
Bird lofted an 18-foot jumper from the right side, and as soon as it left his hands he knew it would miss. Anticipating it would bounce off the rim to the right, Bird raced into position to grab the rebounding before the ball ever reached the basket, and was in just the right spot when the ball caromed toward the right baseline.
He grabbed the rebound on the run with his right hand and while in midair, with his momentum about to take him behind the backboard and out of bounds, he switched the ball into his left hand and somehow scooped it into the hoop. Boston Garden erupted in cheers and the Celtics went on to win the game 98-95, and the championship in six games.
"That is the greatest play I've ever seen. Larry Bird is a player of destiny," said Auerbach.