Larry Bird is one of the few basketball players in history that are widely recognized even by people who don’t even know the sport. It’s pretty easy to forget how many times Bird has been in the NBA Finals with all of the many accolades and unbelievably true stories about him.
What is Larry Bird’s Record in the NBA Finals? This might be a bit of a surprising answer, but Bird was 3-2 in the NBA Finals throughout his career. He was able to march his way into the biggest series in five different seasons but despite his excellence his team was outmatched twice! It’s not often that you see a player with Bird’s talents losing two series on the biggest stage basketball has to offer.
Though just looking at his record can get a bit confusing. You have to really understand the circumstances in each Finals run and see how he ended up with the record that he has right now. We have seen some teams lose in the NBA Finals off of some injuries and other situations leading up to it that the stat sheet doesn’t show, so let’s dive into Bird’s record.
Larry Birds First NBA Title
In Bird’s rookie season in the league, he helped lead the Boston Celtics all the way into the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately, the team was defeated by the Philadelphia 76ers in five games and they were sent home. It must have lit a fire underneath Larry because he didn’t let anything get in his way during his sophomore season. They quickly swept the Chicago Bulls, then marched down and knocked off the 76ers in a revenge series that wound up going into seven games. Funny story about that series, Boston was actually down 3-1 entering Game 5, and Bird ended up dropping 32, 25 and 23 points in each of those games to rally off three straight wins and advance his team to the Finals. It was a tough six game slugfest with the Houston Rockets but Bird and company were just too good. Bird only averaged 15 points per game throughout the series but he did drop a series high 27 points in Game 6 to officially send the Rockets packing, as Bird won his first chip.
Larry Birds Second NBA Title
Fast forward a couple of seasons and Bird marched his team back into the postseason. They easily won their first round series against the Washington Wizards, or Bullets as they were named at that time, then advanced and knocked off the New York Knicks in a seven-game series. Instead of battling fatigue and exhaustion from their grueling Semi-Finals series, they went on to beat the Milwaukee Bucks in five games. He lined up against the Los Angeles Lakes and they also took Boston to seven games. It went back and forth but they were able to walk away with a massive victory to seal the series. Larry averaged 27.4 points, 14 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game in this series. Safe to say he absolutely dominated in every facet of the game for that second ring.
Winning, Losing, and Injuries-
The Celtics entered the next season off a high, cruising into the NBA playoffs and sweeping Cleveland in the opening series. The Detroit Pistons took two games off them in the second round but it didn’t matter, Bird averaged 28 points per game as they won in six. The Celtics then knocked the 76ers off once again, this time in five games and advanced to the Finals for the second time in as many years. It was yet again against the Lakers and they split the first two games 1-1. After that the series was all Lakers, they won four of the next five games to end the series in six and hand Larry his first Finals loss. Not that there was anything to really worry about for him, it really just added a chip on his shoulder to come back and perform to a high standard. He swept through the Bulls the next year, then beat the Atlanta Hawks in five games, then swept the Bucks.
It was one of the most dominant playoff runs that we had ever seen in basketball at this time and it was hard to imagine them as anything other than favorites entering that series against the Rockets, a team that they already beat in the championship before. Bird averaged 24 points per game as Boston won the series in six to net him his THIRD ring. Things weren’t as cheerful from this point forward for Boston though. They did make the playoffs the year after and many thought that they would easily repeat at first. However, despite sweeping the Bulls in the first round again, they had serious issues the next few. The Bucks took them to seven games before they were able to advance and the Pistons took them to seven in the Conference Finals. It was clear that the Celtics were mentally exhausted after playing that many games in such a short span, which resulted in the Lakers beating Bird and the Celtics in six quick games. Sadly, after that Finals loss, Bird never made it into another Finals series. He led the C’s to a Conference Finals appearance once or twice in the ensuing years but the team just wasn’t nearly as competitive anymore and it was obvious that Larry was getting up there in age. His back suffered major issues, as he injured it building on his farm.
Unlike some of the other players that have gone down in NBA History, Larry didn’t leave his team whatsoever. He stayed loyal to the Celtics throughout his entire career and they were the team that reaped the benefits of his five NBA Finals appearances and three NBAchampionships. It’s surprising that he wasn’t able to win at least one more, though three championships nowadays is something that is wildly difficult to do, it’s no feat to be taken lightly. Nevertheless, it is rare to see a player dominate in so many areas of the game, there’s no wonder why the Celtics made multiple deep playoff runs. If you were wondering about his career numbers while we wrap this up, he averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks per game.