Are you bored, or have some time to spare? Then find a basketball fan and ask them who they think is the greatest basketball player of all time. You’re bound to get a few different answers, and you’re also in for a long and heated argument. The thing is, there is no objective, undisputed greatest basketball player of all time in the NBA; the title of GOAT is purely subjective, and is pretty much based on the best argument you can present in favor of it, which will depend heavily on what you value as a person. It’s a testament to the many talented players that have come through the NBA throughout its history, and the impact they have all left on the game.
Is Larry Bird the greatest basketball player of all time? Larry Bird certainly has an argument for the greatest basketball player of all time: he was a 3x NBA champion, 3x regular season MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 12x NBA All-Star, 9x All-NBA First Team, and Rookie of the Year, among other accolades. He was instrumental in turning the Boston Celtics into a dynasty in the 1980s. However, many argue that Bird wasn’t even the greatest player in his era, often referring to rival and Lakers star Magic Johnson.
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What notable accolades and awards did Larry Bird achieve in his career?
Larry Bird built quite the resume in his 13-year career. He won 3 NBA championships (1981, 1984, and 1986), with 2 Finals MVP awards to go along with them (1984 and 1986). His regular season dominance earned him 3 MVP awards, which he won in three consecutive seasons (1984-1986): this remains a feat not repeated by another player in history. His regular season play also earned him 12 All-Star Game appearances (he also won 3 consecutive 3-point shooting contests), 9 All-NBA First Team selections, an All-NBA Second Team selection, and 3 NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors. Bird’s resume started early in his career, winning the 1980 Rookie of the Year award and was selected for the All-NBA Rookie Team.
What were Larry Bird’s notable statistics?
Larry Bird’s career averages include 24.3 points per game, 10 rebounds per game, 6.3 assists per game, 1.7 steals per game, and 0.8 blocks per game. His career shooting percentages include a 49.6% field goal percentage, 37.6% three-point percentage, and 88.6% free-throw percentage. He started 870 games out of a total of 897 appearances and averaged 38.4 minutes per game.
What is Larry Bird’s legacy and impact on the NBA?
Larry Bird was a part of the resurgence of the NBA’s national popularity in the 1980s. He was the cornerstone that turned a struggling Boston Celtics franchise into a contender for over a decade; a constant thorn in the side of other dynasties, such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls, with a young Michael Jordan. He was a great and efficient scorer and a strong rebounder, and an overall great offensive facilitator. He was a sharpshooter from inside or outside the arc, during an era which had recently introduced the 3-point line.
Bird had a strong motor despite his underwhelming athleticism, and was known as a hustle-and-bustle defender. Bird was a relentless trash-talker, and used his excellent basketball IQ to constantly terrorize opponents who were stronger, faster, and could jump higher. Larry Bird is remembered as arguably the best small forward in NBA history, and one of the two definitive superstars of the 1980s NBA.
Who is Larry Bird’s competition for the title of greatest basketball player of all time?
To many, it is unfit to talk about Larry Bird without mentioning Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers. The two were cross-country rivals and undisputed greats, who have an intertwined place in history. Johnson revolutionized the game of basketball, specifically the point guard position. While he had the size of a forward, he had a finesse like few others, showcasing dazzling passing ability. He showed that the game of basketball could be entertaining, akin to Hollywood, without sacrificing winning; he brought home 5 championships, often beating Bird to win one. His impact and legacy, combined with an arguably stronger resume than Bird, makes him a stronger candidate for the greatest basketball player of all time title in the eyes of many, or at the very least, the definitive star of the NBA in the 1980s.
Other candidates for the GOAT conversation include some of Bird’s predecessors. Wilt Chamberlain is remembered as the most dominant player in NBA history. He had immense size and athleticism, along with an ability to score at will that once saw him score 100 points in a single game. Bill Russell was another dominant center, that too with the Celtics, who won 11 titles in his career, making him the winningest NBA player in history, and arguably the best Celtic, even ahead of Larry Bird.
Other stars who played during the same era as Bird, who are also in the conversation for the greatest basketball player of all time, are Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jordan is the most popular candidate for the title; he created a winning dynasty with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. His impact was global, as he skyrocketed the popularity of basketball around the world. Kareem, on the other hand, holds the record for most career points, and also saw lots of postseason success with the Lakers in the 1970s and 1980s at the hands of Larry Bird.
After Bird retired, more candidates came forward to challenge for the greatest of all time title. Kobe Bryant was the second coming of Jordan, with a stronger competitive spirit and just as much success. LeBron James, who is still active today, has eclipsed Bird’s status as the greatest small forward of all time in the eyes of many, and he continues to add to his NBA resume.
Put simply, there is no one greatest of all time basketball player that every fan can agree on. Some fans highly value accolades and accomplishments, some fans value statistics, while others value legacy and impact on the game. There are many who value their own memories of the player as the greatest single factor. One thing that can be agreed on is that a potential candidate for the greatest basketball player of all time needs to have a combination of all of those factors. When put like that, Larry Bird definitely fits the bill, so it makes sense that some consider him as their greatest basketball player of all time.