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Sports Then and Now



30 Years Ago: Celtics Edge Sixers In Series For The Ages 3

Posted on April 29, 2011 by A.J. Foss

In 1981 Julius Erving was at the top of his game and Larry Bird was an emerging superstar in the NBA.

Thirty years ago, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals, which is quite possibly the greatest NBA playoff series of all time.

The series went seven games, had five games decided by two points or less, and featured the Celtics overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to win the series and advance to the NBA Finals.

1981 was the second year of the Larry Bird era, who had won the rookie of the year in 1980 and had lead the Celtics to the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history, as Boston finished with a 61-21 record, before falling to the Sixers in five games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

In the offseason, Bird would be joined with center Robert Parish and rookie power forward Kevin McHale, in forming the “Big Three” of the Bird era.

To go along with this legendary frontline, was point guard Nate “Tiny” Archibald and starting forward Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell as Boston went 62-20 in the regular season for the NBA’s best record.

The Sixers also went 62-20 in the regular season as they were led by forward Julius Erving,

who averaged 24.6 points and 8 rebounds per game, to win the MVP award for the regular season.

In addition to “Dr. J”, the Sixers’ lineup featured center Daryl Dawkins, known as “Chocolate Thunder”, defensive specialist Bobby Jones, a pair of point guards in Maurice Cheeks and Lionel Hollins, and a rookie guard off the bench, that would become known as the “Boston Strangler”, Andrew Toney. Read the rest of this entry →

NBA Memories: Bird vs. ‘Nique 2

Posted on June 15, 2010 by Joe Gill

Larry Legend and the Human Highlight Reel put on a show for the ages.(Photo NBA)

The playoffs are where superstars shine. Adrenaline and pure will take over.

If you believe you can’t be stopped, usually you can’t.

However, sometimes when your game goes to a new level, this challenge inspires your competitor to wrestle the spotlight away from you.

This happened on May 22, 1988.

It was the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

It was Game Seven.

Celtics versus Hawks.

Bird against ‘Nique.

It was for all the marbles.

The question was what superstar would shine brightest on the big stage of the NBA Playoffs.

The answer.

BOTH of them.

Read the rest of this entry →

Greatest Moments in NBA Finals History: 50-26 8

Posted on June 01, 2010 by A.J. Foss

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson combined for many great moments in the NBA Finals.

The NBA Finals begin this week and I have decided to take a look back at the history of the NBA Finals with the 50 greatest moments in NBA Finals history.

In this list, there are multiple moments from one series to make up the top 50.

For example, four of the moments are from the 1984 Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics, while there are three moments from the 1997 Finals between the Bulls and the Jazz.

Here now are moments 50-26 in the countdown of the 50 most memorable moments in NBA Finals history.

50. Game 6 2003 Spurs-Nets
Spurs center Tim Duncan has a near quadruple-double (22 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and eight blocked shots) as San Antonio goes on a 19-0 run in the fourth quarter for a 88-77 victory over the New Jersey Nets to clinch the franchise’s second of four championships and send David Robinson out as a champion in his final game.

49. Game 5 1984 Lakers-Celtics
This was the infamous “Heat Game” as both the Lakers and the Celtics had to play the fifth game of this series in oppressive heat as it was 97-degrees in Boston on this day and the Boston Garden had no air conditioning.

The heat did not seem to effect the Celtics as they defeated the Lakers 121-103 thanks to a 34-point, 17-rebound performance from Larry Bird.

48. Game 5 1999 Spurs-Knicks
Point guard Avery Johnson makes the winning basket as he drills a baseline jumper with 47 seconds left to give the San Antonio Spurs a 78-77 win and clinch the first championship in franchise history. Read the rest of this entry →

Rivalry Renewed: A Look Back at the 1984 NBA Finals 0

Posted on May 30, 2010 by Jacob Rogers

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson make the epic 1984 NBA Finals the most watched series in NBA Finals history

Of course when everybody thinks of the great rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, they think of Larry and Magic… But the intense rivalry started even before the epic 1984 Finals series. The Celtics and Lakers met seven times in the NBA Finals before 1984, and the Celtics won all seven championships. The rivalry slightly died down, but was reborn in the epic 1984 finals series.

In 1984 the Celtics and the Lakers met in the NBA Finals once again. This would turn out to be the most watched series in NBA history. Who wouldn’t want to watch it? It is perhaps the most intriguing matchup in NBA Finals history. You have arguably the two best players in the NBA, the two best teams, and to top it all off, the intense rivalry between the two franchises.

Because of their 62-20 record, the Celtics would win home court advantage. The first two games of the series would be held in Boston, but that wouldn’t prove to be any help to the home team. The Lakers went on to win game one 115-109. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had 32 points and 8 rebounds. Earvin “Magic” Johnson had 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists. Bird had 24 points and 14 rebounds, but it was not enough to propel the Celtics to a victory in game one.
Read the rest of this entry →

NBA Flashback: Bird Overcomes Headache To Lift Celtics Over Pacers 2

Posted on January 23, 2010 by Joe Gill

Bird and Person battled in an epic and deciding Game Five in the '91 NBA Playoffs.

In the ’90-’91 season, the Celtics were still one of the top teams in the NBA. They finished with a 56-26 record under head coach Chris Ford and won the Atlantic division. However, everything wasn’t rosy for the Celtics especially with Larry Bird.

Age and injuries were catching up with the “Big Three”. Kevin McHale only played 68 games, Robert Parrish miraculously stayed healthy and only missed one game, and Larry Bird missed 22 games to due to a compressed nerve in his back. This would be the injury that would cause Larry Legend to retire after the following season.

Bird, at age 34, would still have a productive season. He averaged 38 minutes per game, 19.4 points (which led the team), 7.2 assists, and 7.6 boards. However, he was a far cry from the Larry Bird of old.

The Celtics faced the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs that season. Boston would split the first two games at the Garden before traveling to Indiana for Games 3 and 4. The Celtics would take Game 3 112-105, but they couldn’t close out the scrappy Pacers in Game 4. The series was tied 2-2 and set up a winner take all Game 5 back in Boston.

Larry Bird spent the night of May 4, 1991 in the hospital in traction due to his insufferable back pain. No one really thought Bird would be able to play in the deciding Game Five versus the upstart Pacers.

However, as people learned throughout Bird’s whole career, never count him out.

Read the rest of this entry →

Video is Worth A Thousand Words: Larry “The Legend” Bird 0

Posted on December 19, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Watching old highlights of Larry Bird helps illustrate just how amazing a player he was.

Watching old highlights of Larry Bird helps illustrate just how amazing a player he was.

On the program “Outside The Lines”, ESPN recently did a feature about the lack of American born white players in the NBA. This got me thinking about the amazing career of one of the great American born white players of the last 30 years, Larry Bird.

Bird is also back in the forefront lately through the new book he co-wrote with Magic Johnson entitled, “When the Game Was Ours.” Click here to read a great review of the book recently posted by Joe Gill. Also, if you sign up to receive daily updates from Sports Then and Now or the sites for Boston, Chicago or Baltimore between now and January 15, 2010, you will be automatically registered for a drawing where you could win one of two copies of the book.

As part of our occasional series remembering the careers of some of the greats of the game through Youtube videos, I’ve picked several videos that depict Bird’s legendary career.

Watching these videos, I was absolutely amazed at just how great Bird was. At the time he played, we all new Bird was great, but seeing his many amazing passes and shots, it is clear that he was one of the all-time greats and will never be duplicated. There are certainly many great players today, but none (regardless of color) who have quite the package of greatness embodied by “the Kid from French Lick.” Enjoy.

Larry Bird’s Great Moments

Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rocky Colavito: Super Slugger
      March 30, 2020 | 7:24 pm
      Rocky Colavito

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was just the fifth player in Major League Baseball history to have 11 straight seasons with 20 or more home runs, yet could not sustain that greatness long enough to earn a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      In some sense, the legend of Rocco “Rocky” Colavito Jr. began long before he ever started pounding home runs at the major league level.

      Born and raised as a New York Yankees fan in The Bronx, Colavito was playing semipro baseball before he was a teenager and dropped out of high school at 16 after his sophomore year to pursue a professional career. The major league rule at the time said a player could not sign with a pro team until his high school class graduated, but after sitting out for one year, Colavito was allowed to sign at age 17.

      Read more »

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