(Celticslife wishes Larry a happy 57th birthday today!)
By Cort Reynolds
With all the talk of LeBron James being one of the very greatest forward passers ever, I feel compelled to set the record straight. Even though James is a superb passer, he is not in Larry Bird's class as a passer. Not even close.
As Bob Ryan has said, when rating the best passing forwards ever (with apologies to Rick Barry, James and others), "there are no seconds or thirds, just others receiving votes" behind Larry Legend.
Not only do I think Bird is definitely the best passing forward in NBA
annals, I feel he is the best passer ever, along with John Stockton. Larry
has one major advantage over John due to being eight inches taller and
thus was more easily able to see and pass over defenses.
Bird made the hard pass look easy, unlike his arch-rival Earvin Johnson,
whose post-pass release antics (complete with leg kicks, lookaways, facial
contortions, bug eyes, open mouth, etc.) may have amazed the casual fan -
especially the fair-weather, easily-impressed-by-flash LA fans in the
glitz capital of the world - but those superficial actions did not make
the pass any better in reality.
James also has a tendency to draw attention to himself with post-pass
antics, albeit not as dramatically as Johnson's constant, shameless
Bird's passes were much more subtle and did not draw attention to himself,
unlike Johnson, whose every move was and often still is virtually aimed at
gaining attention for himself. Earvin always knows where the camera is and
still often steals the spotlight from others, such as when Michigan State
qualified for the 2009 Final Four and he was on the floor celebrating like
Meanwhile, Jerry West's son Jonny was a reserve on the first West Virginia
team to make the Final Four that same year since his famed dad had carried
the Mountaineers within a point of the title 50 years earlier. Yet Jerry
was nowhere to be seen stealing the spotlight.
Magic's ostentatious act got old
Like Jerry West, Bird was exceptionally intense, introverted, serious and
almost grim, the opposite of Earvin. Larry shunned the spotlight. He
wanted his teammates to enjoy scoring and did not do anything to embarrass
Don't get me wrong, though. Johnson and James were/are excellent passers,
and unselfish, although some of it stems from the fact that neither was a
good shooter, especially James. Johnson never even possessed a true jump
shot, only a push shot he made fairly consistently when left wide open,
usually via double team kickouts from Worthy and Jabbar.
Anyway, Larry rarely held the ball and always gave the ball to his
teammate at the right velocity and time, and almost always in the shooting
pocket. James tends to dribble too much and throw the pass a tad late,
after he has possessed it long enough. In contrast, Bird's quick, crisp
and unselfish (often touch) passes stimulated ball and player movement. No
one threw the touch pass better.
And because he was such a superior shooter, shotmaker and scorer, it was
more unselfish of him to give the ball up so often when he could have
easily scored, compare to much lesser shooters/top passers like James,
Johnson and Jason Kidd.
When seeing Bird's best passes, it is interesting to note that many of
them came off broken plays or loose balls, situations that lend themselves
Also, most but certainly not all of his greatest passes came in Boston.
Milwaukee, Portland, Atlanta and the Clippers seemed to be the teams Bird
vicitmized most often with his wondrous vision, passing touch and
unsurpassed hand-eye coordination.
Plus, many of Larry's best passes came in a halfcourt offensive setting
against full defenses, a tougher needle to thread than the numerous fast
break assists Johnson got with the Showtime Lakers (not to mention the
notorious assist-padding the Forum was known to do for Earvin).
With all that said, over all the thousands of good and great passes Bird
threw, I am trying to boil it down to his very best. Because there was
less coverage when Bird played, some of his best feeds may have even been
lost to history, at least on film if not in the memories of awed admirers.
However, thanks to Youtube many are now preserved, especially by fellow
Birdie-phile "Merkin Muffly".
So in honor of his jersey number these are arguably his 33 best passes, at
least in my opinion, since it was too hard to whittle the thousands down
to a mere 10.
Top 33 Bird feeds:
33) Many times the uber-competitive Bird would jump out of bounds quickly
after a big opposition basket and rifle a full court pass to a streaking
teammate for a key score - and to wrest the momentum back. Two of the best
examples of these feeds were a 90-foot bomb in the fourth quarter of a
mid-1980s game against the Bulls that threaded past two flailing defenders
to McHale for a layup; and
32) a 75-foot, quick step-out strike launched to Danny Ainge over a madly
retreating Earvin Johnson and Michael Cooper late in game four of the
heated 1987 Finals vs. the Lakers. Ainge made the layin but numerous bad
calls late in this infamous contest (and many bad injuries) helped cost
the Celtics a 16-point lead a possible banner.
31) In a surprisingly difficult 1982 playoff series vs. a physical
Washington club, Bird was double-teamed near the top of the key by
bruising Bullets Rick Mahorn and Greg Ballard. Dribbling with his back to
the basket, he suddenly rifled a 20-foot, two-handed over the shoulder
pass perfectly in stride to Kevin McHale cutting through the lane, and
number 32 dropped in a patented short fadeaway over Spencer Haywood.
30) Against Washington in the early 1980s, Bird jumped in the air to
receive a pass near the Boston bench along the sideline and rifled a
22-foot two-handed touch pass crosscourt amid traffic to Nate Archibald
for a transition layup.
29) At Golden State in the magical season of 1986, Bird was trapped on the
right baseline by seven-footer Joe Barry Carroll and burly 6-7 Greg
Ballard. After picking up his dribble, he tossed a one-handed underhand
scoop pass to a cutting Bill Walton - through the legs of Carroll.
28) Diving recklessly between Hawks Glenn Rivers and Dominique Wilkins to
secure a loose ball he had dislodged from 'Nique, Larry then threw a
perfect left-handed outlet pass 35 feet upcourt around the defense - while
on his back - to Ainge for an easy fast break layup.
27) After grabbing an offensive rebound going away from the hoop on the
right baseline, Larry looked to be out of room as he drove behind the
basket just outside the lane in a game vs. the Hawks at New Orleans. As
number 33 got to the edge of the lane he was met by the close guarding of
6-10 Scott Hastings and picked up his dribble. But Larry simply moved to
his right as he went nearly out of bounds and delivered a blind wraparound
pass behind Hastings through close quarters to a cutting McHale for a
26) While dribbling in the backcourt at the Garden vs. the Bulls in the
mid-1980s, Bird leaped into the air as a Bull defender aggressively
charged at him for a steal. Larry avoided him and a turnover by throwing a
midair 40-foot, behind the back pass up the sideline to Quinn Buckner.
25) In a 1985 game at Boston vs. the Rockets, Bird slapped the ball away
from Rodney McCray and dove for the loose ball in the deep right corner
while sliding on his back between McCray and Lewis Lloyd. After recovering
the ball, he managed to turn his body as he slid between the duo and fire
a perfect 17-foot pass over them to open teammate Ray Williams along the
sideline from his backside just before he went out of bounds.
24) A fake behind the back pass in game two of the 1986 Finals at home vs.
the Rockets forced almost the entire Houston defense to bite on the feint,
and when he brought the ball back around to his front Bird uncorked a
pretty wraparound feed to Jerry Sichting for a short left baseline jumper.
23) On defense in the backcourt during a mid-1980s contest at Portland,
Bird quickly slapped the ball away from above the head of unsuspecting
Kiki Vandeweghe in the deep backcourt. Larry then dove to the floor to
recover the loose ball, dribbling it to himself as he fell while keeping
the ball away from Terry Porter and another Blazer. From a seated position
he turned his body and perfectly fed Kevin McHale streaming down the lane
for a slam dunk.
22) Against the Bulls at the Garden in the 1986 playoffs, Sidney Green
grabbed a defensive rebound and appeared to have an easy outlet pass to
Chicago guard Kyle Macy. Bird started to run back on defense, then faked
out Green as he stopped and blindly anticipated the outlet, turning to
picking it off in front of stunned fellow Hoosier Macy. To top the play
off, Larry faked a pass around Green while being double-teamed to buy time
for a teammate to come back downcourt, then fed a lefty underhanded scoop
pass to Dennis Johnson for a layup.
21) Larry stole the ball with a hard slapaway from Bullet Ladell Eackles
near the foul line, and while going to the ground to recover the ball he
was bumped hard by Eackles, yet he managed to tap a one-handed pass to
McHale for a layup against Washington in the mid-1980s.
20) In game four of the 1981 eastern semifinals at Chicago, Bird led a 3
on 3 fast break down the middle of the court. As he neared the top of the
key, Larry lobbed an unusual underhanded pass high over the defense off
the dribble to Rick Robey filling the right lane, leading him to the hoop
so the 6-11 center would not have to dribble. Bird's beer-drinking buddy
then laid it in over David Greenwood to complete the unique transition
19) During a mid-1980s contest vs. Atlanta at the Garden, team defense
roamer extraordinaire Bird anticipated an entry pass to Kevin Willis,
stepped in front of him and batted a chest pass away into the air. Larry
then chased it down, caught the ball in midair near the deep corner, and
with the seven-foot Willis draped all over him, launched a perfect 88-foot
baseball pass to Parish for a layup.
18) While driving along the right baseline against Milwaukee in the 1987
playoffs, Bird threaded a perfect bounce pass through the legs of Jack
Sikma right in stride to Robert Parish past a trailing Paul Pressey for an
easy one-handed stuff.
17) While closely guarded by 76er Reggie Johnson in the closing moments of
a big game, he protected the ball with his crouched body while dribbling
the ball. He then spun past Johnson and as the clock ran down, fired a
head down, lookaway pass to his left off the bounce to McHale for a
game-clinching slam dunk.
16) In game five of the 1987 eastern finals vs. Detroit, a missed Celtic
missed bounced high off the rim not once but twice before Bird timed the
second carom perfectly and re-directed the ball by tipping it left-handed
just over the head of frozen Piston Adrian Dantley to McHale for an easy
15) Bird literally jumped and dove through the lane past Sidney Moncrief
to take a loose ball away from the slower-reacting Paul Mokeski, who had
been much closer to the loose leather, during the 1987 playoffs at
Milwaukee. While on the floor Bird then turned and hit McHale for a simple
layup while sitting on his backside.
14) As Boston hosted the Spurs in the mid-1980s, Bird dove for a loose
ball on the sideline in front of the Celtic bench, barely beating a San
Antonio player to the ball. After he collided with the Spur player, Larry
twisted and threw a perfect left-handed over the shoulder bounce pass
ahead to Danny Ainge as he went face-first to the parquet.
13) Stationed approximately 30 feet from the hoop on offense vs. Atlanta's
halfcourt zone press in the early 1980s, Larry took a reversal feed and
immediately threaded a long bounce pass back against the grain through the
middle of the scrambling Hawk defense perfectly to Cedric Maxwell, who was
slicing through the lane for an easy layin.
As then-Hawk coach Hubie Brown corrected play by play man Dick Stockton
many years later as a CBS commentator after another great Larry dish
burned a Laker zone - "No Dick, BIRD beat the press by himself."
12) Against Indiana in an early 1980s game at the Garden, Bird out-quicked
several players to a rebound, tapping it away thorugh the air toward
himself along the baseline. Chasing down the loose ball, he planted
himself just in bounds, leaped along his defensive baseline and grabbed
the ball out of the air, THEN fired a length of the court feed to Cedric
Maxwell, who then hit ML Carr for a fast break layup, robbing Larry of the
"Are you serious?" screamed then-ESPN NBA commentator and ex-Detroit
(Pistons and the collegiate Titans) coach Dick Vitale.
Screenshot of #11
11) In game four of the 1987 eastern semifinals at Milwaukee, Bird posted
up along the low left block, drawing a Buck double-team of 6-9 Terry
Cummings and long-armed 6-5 defensive ace Paul Pressey. At precisely the
right time, he faked the Bucks out by looking over his RIGHT shoulder
while firing a no-look two-handed backhand pass over his LEFT shoulder to
an open Parish for an easy layup.
"How did he see him?!" exclaimed CBS analyst and a fine passing forward
himself, Billy Cunningham, from courtside.
10) At the end of game four between the rival Celtics and Lakers in the
1985 NBA Finals before a packed Los Angeles Forum crowd, the game was tied
105-105. Boston had the ball, down 2-1 in the series and desperately in
need of tying the Finals.
Everyone in the tense, loud Forum expected Bird, the premier clutch
shooter in the NBA, to take the last shot. Amid the din he curled off a
low screen to receive a pass beyond the right elbow, but time was running
He dribbled into the circle against the defense of 6-9 Bob McAdoo. As he
penetrated, Earvin Johnson dived down to help out and tried to swipe away
the ball. Bird anticipated the attempted steal as he split the double team
and protected the ball well, pulling it away from his nemesis.
For a steal at this most critical of junctures would mean overtime on the
road at the very least, and at worst maybe even a breakaway winning basket
by the whippet-fast Lakers against the unprotected backcourt - and a 3-1
deficit in the championship series.
Almost in the same motion as he split the swarming top two defenders,
Larry left his feet and whipped a perfect pass out to Dennis Johnson, who
had been left open by the doubling Earvin to Bird's left and behind him,
20 feet away.
Most superstars would have forced a shot in an attemt to win the game, but
not the prescient and unselfish Celtic great.
Instead, Larry's soft pass surprised the Laker defense and hit DJ deftly
in his shooting pocket. The clutch Celtic guard stepped into the shot and
launched a perfect jumper that swished through the cords just before the
buzzer sounded, giving Boston a 107-105 victory that sent the partisan
Laker crowd into depression and tied the title series 2-2.
It wasn't the most flashy or spectacular pass of Bird's long and storied
career, but it was one of the most meaningful and substantial.
9) In what turned out to be the final home game of his legendary Celtic
career in game six of the 1992 eastern semifinals vs. Cleveland, Larry put
on one of the greatest passing displays of his career.
In 37 minutes, Bird gave an incredible passing clinic that brought a
raucous Boston Garden crowd to its feet time and again, and this assist is
representative of several similar ones he passed out in that historic
Bird dished out 14 assists to spark a series-tying 122-91 Boston blowout
of the Cavs. Perhaps the best pass he threw was a beautiful wraparound
pass that led long-time teammate McHale perfectly to the hoop on a
textbook pick and roll play for an easy layup. But all of his feeds that
special day combine to be worth of high mention on this list.
"Larry Bird is holding class on the art of passing," crowed Celtic
announcer and Boston Hall of Fame forward Tom Heinsohn. "Professor
8) Throughout the draining and memorable Boston 23-game 1987 playoff run,
Bird made many incredible passes. One of the best was this superb, subtle
and quick feed that took place in almost the bink of an eye. First he
out-fought several Bucks and teammates for a rebound under the Boston
basket in the conference semifinals vs. the Bucks.
Then as he fell out of bounds while corraling the loose ball, he
nonchalantly tossed a true no-look lefty pass over his shoulder right by
startled and unsuspecting Milwaukee center Jack Sikma and teammate McHale
directly to Parish for an easy dunk.
7) In an early 1980s game at Boston against Dallas, Bird had his left
baseline driving shot blocked and recovered by former Michigan State foe
Jay Vincent. His pride roused, Bird quickly chased Vincent down from
behind along the sideline by the Celtic bench and stole the ball back with
an angry smack-away. Larry then dribbled past him with a nifty crossover
and tapped a one-handed, lookaway pass off the dribble past Maverick big
man Pat Cummings to Cedric Maxwell for an easy layup as he ran back on
6) In the final regular season game of the 1986-87 season, first place in
the East was still up for grabs as Boston hosted the up and coming young
Atlanta Hawks (remember their laughable "Nothing Can Stop Us" music video
for "Atlanta's Air Force"?)
The Celtics were 58-23 and the Hawks 57-24 coming in, with the
all-important homecourt advantage for an aging, injured Boston squad in
the upcoming eastern playoffs on the line.
But this game would be all Gang Green as the Celtics ran out to a 93-77
lead and won handily, 118-107.
Highlighting the big victory was a classic piece of Larry Legend unselfish
passing creativity. Ahead of everyone running out on the fast break, Larry
showed off his great hands first by grabbing a slightly-overthrown 65-foot
lead pass from DJ as he raced toward the basket, going too fast and
getting too far under the hoop to shoot. His catch was made also while
being hotly pursued by Hawk seven-footer Kevin Willis and 5-6 Spud Webb.
Unable to shoot, in one motion Larry instead grabbed the long bomb and
without looking, passed it around his head and over his right shoulder
past the stunned Atlantans to a trailing Parish, who threw down a
resounding slam dunk that brought the house - and the cocky, high-flying
Hawks - down for good.
It was the most spectacular of the 14 assists Bird doled out that day. Oh,
and he also added 32 points for good measure to clinch the much-needed top
seed in the East.
5) Larry threw far more spectacular passes in his career, but arguably his
most meaningful dish came was a fairly simple pass (physically) at the
very end of game five in the 1987 eastern finals during that incredibly
heated series vs. the self-proclaimed bad boys of Detroit.
Most everyone recalls Bird's great sucker-bait steal of the floating,
hurried Isiah Thomas in-bounds pass with time running out and Boston down
by a point. But few remember the calm and clear-headedness it took to
complete the play.
For Bird first had to corral the loose ball while tightroping the
baseline. Nearly out of bounds when he snared the orange, it appeared
Larry kept his heels in the air to avoid possibly stepping on the line
while surveying the court from his behind-the-backboard position.
Tick. Would he shoot it over the corner of the board as he did vs. the
Rockets the year before, or try a hook shot from 15 feet? Tick...
DJ suddenly flashed into the picture, cutting smartly to the hoop. Larry,
without hesitation, fed the ball softly and right in stride to Dennis. DJ
then put Boston up 108-107 with a shot that was more difficult that people
think, a driving right-handed layup from the left side that nestled into
the hoop high off the glass as Thomas futilely rushed in for a rebound
that never came, desperate to make up for his error.
One second remained on the clock as the Garden shook, yet always in the
game competing, Bird was the only Celtic who rushed back on defense to
guard against a long pass. DJ jammed the Detroit in-bound passer as the
rest of the Garden bellowed perhaps as loudly as it ever has, forcing a
timeout by the shocked Pistons.
"Oh my, this place is going crazy," screamed Celtic radio play by play
announcing legend Johnny Most from his perch high above the parquet floor.
Sidelined by injury Bill Walton smiled gleefully on the bench, raising
both arms in triumph after the incredible game and series-saving play.
"Everyone hated the Pistons," he recalled later. "Isiah Thomas made a play
he will remember the rest of his life...I wasn't surprised though. I see
Larry make that (type) play every day in practice."
During the ensuing timeout the crowd noise reached a crescendo as the
break in the fierce action allowed the enormity of the preceding play to
fully sink in.
After the Piston timeout advanced the ball past halfcourt, Bird again came
up big. The ball came in to Bill Laimbeer for last-second desperation try,
but Larry smothered him along the sideline and the Detroit center lost the
in-bounds pass before he could even get off a potential long winner,
preserving the epic victory.
Celtic guard Danny Ainge noted, "I think that was Larry's greatest play.
Everyone had pretty much given up except Larry. But Isiah made a big
mistake - he forgot about Larry. How could you forget Larry Bird was on
#5 just after the pass!
4) In a late-January 1980 Sunday game vs. the San Diego Clippers during
his rookie season, Bird put on a masterful display of all-around
brilliance for the nationally-televised CBS audience.
The game was likely scheduled for broadcast as a Bird vs. Walton showdown
by CBS execs before the campaign, but the matchup never materialized as
Bird's oft-injured high school idol was sidelined by foot surgery and out
for the season.
Larry had extra motivation for the outing since Clipper forward Sidney
Wicks, a recent ex-Celtic who had been cut by the team early in Bird's
first pre-season, had made some unseemly remarks about Larry being the
latest white hope in Boston.
Wicks' ex-UCLA runningmate Curtis Rowe was also in on it as well with some
rough training camp play directed at the heralded rookie, as Bird recalled
years later on the 2012 NBA TV special "Bird and Magic: A Courtship of
But in typically tight-lipped Bird fashion, he would not divulge exactly
what happened. However he did note, in his understated way, that Sidney
and Curtis were not with the team the next day.
Anyway, in this game Bird was on fire, scoring a then-career NBA high of
36 points. At one point he burned Joe Bryant (yes Kobe's dad) on a classic
fake so badly that the journeyman forward also known as Jellybean was
clearly infuriated by the spectacular rook.
On the memorable play, Bird caught the ball along the left baseline near
the basket, guarded so closely by Bryant that the Clipper forward was
practically in Larry's jersey. Responding instinctively to the
overly-tight defense, Bird faked a pass around Joe's back, and when the
completely-fooled Bryant turned to look where he had passed the ball, the
clever Bird pulled it back and softly swished a 10-footer over the
However, Larry saved his best real pass for last. Late in the 131-108
Boston blowout win, Bird received a long feed for an easy breakaway fast
break down the lane. Nothing but clear parquet awaited him for an
uncontested dunk that would cap his career game perfectly with an
exclamation point on national TV.
But instead of taking it in for the showboat slam as almost every other
superstar would have done - can you imagine Jordan, James or Kobe not
doing so? - Larry instead looked to his right and saw third-string center
Eric Fernsten filling the lane, running hard.
So Bird, who always had a soft spot for the hard-working reserve type
teammates who received little playing time or glory, unselfishly gave the
ball up to the seldom-used big man.
Fernsten slammed in perhaps the most satisfying dunk of his NBA career.
Eric scored just 517 total points (including 175 that season) in 218 games
spread out over six NBA campaigns with four teams, interspersed by three
years playing in Italy during a journeyman career, yet those two had to
CBS analyst Keith Erickson, a former star at UCLA and long-time NBA
swingman with the Lakers, Bulls and Suns, raved from courtside.
"That is the type of play that gives you goosebumps," said an admiring
After Bird was taken out of the game for good amid many Garden cheers
moments later by hard-nosed coach Bill Fitch, Larry passed unceremoniously
by his future Hall of Fame presenter toward his seat on the bench.
But the normally hard-to-please Fitch made it a point to grab Bird and
congratulate him face to face on his superb play.
3) In a 1986 regular season blowout of the Clippers at the Garden, Bird
crashed the offensive glass between Marques Johnson and former Celtic
Cedric Maxwell (sending Cornbread flying out of bounds) in pursuit of a
miss and snared the carom ONE-handed AS HE FELL onto his back along the
sideline nearest the Boston bench.
Seeing his basketball soulmate splayed out on the parquet, the
quick-thinking Walton alertly cut through the lane calling for the ball as
Larry was lying flat on his back, legs spread out wildly while maintaining
possession of the ball after a slight bobble.
From his prone position, Bird rifled a perfect one-handed pass to a
cutting Walton between the two Clippers for a Big Red dunk over 6-10
The added irony of the play is that Walton had been traded from the Clips
before that season for Maxwell, simply making a great play even greater.
2) At the 1980 All-Star Game in Landover, Maryland, Larry Bird was a
rookie reserve, unlike his more popular but less-accomplished rival,
Earvin Johnson, who was undeservingly voted in as a starter ahead of
better veterans like Dennis Johnson and Paul Westphal.
Indeed, Bird would end up being a landslide Rookie of the Year award
winner (63-3 in voting over Johnson), as well as first team all-league, an
honor Johnson would not attain until 1984.
On the final play of regulation, a cold Bird came off the bench and with
the score tied, the other All-Stars deferred to the rookie who had barely
shot all game.
But he left a 20-footer that would have won the game on line but short
just before the buzzer. Johnson celebrated briefly by clapping almost in
Bird's face after the miss as he walked by him toward the West bench, and
an angry Bird would make amends in OT.
In the extra session the determined Celtic rookie drained a long left
corner deuce. On the next possession, he splashed a left corner triple
from almost the same spot to put the East up to stay.
Then came the coup de grace. Larry grabbed a West miss and started the
fast break with a long outlet pass. Not content to stay back and watch the
play unfold, he hustled downcourt and followed the action.
When teammate Moses Malone missed in close and the loose ball was batted
around before rebounding out erratically toward the middle of the lane,
the trailing Larry went airborne, reached back for the ricocheting ball
and almost blindly - with his left hand - slap-batted a shockingly
brilliant pass on a line about eight feet just over the head of frequent
Bird victim Jack Sikma and Marques Johnson to teammate George Gervin for
an easy reverse layup.
"That was phenomenal, that flip pass," gushed CBS commentator Hot Rud
Hundley, no stranger to flashy plays as an imaginative Laker guard of the
"I don't believe he saw George Gervin," exclaimed Brent Musburger. Making
the play even more memorable was that his body had been twisted somewhat
away from Gervin as he rose up to slap the ball out of midair.
The spectacular, quick reflex tip-pass clinched the 144-136 East victory,
and showed off Larry's exceptionally quick mind/hands, as well as his
basketball genius for improvisation.
Bird, named as a reserve to the annual mid-season classic behind fan-voted
starting forwards Dan Roundfield and Julius Erving, only played 23 of the
game's 53 minutes, but he was clearly the star of the decisive overtime.
1) During a late February 1982 game early in his career vs. the Clippers
at the Boston Garden, Bird chased down an offensive rebound that bounced
out toward the right sideline near the baseline just outside of the lane.
Before 6-10 Jerome Whitehead and 6-8 Michael Wiley double-teamed him
tightly once he recovered the ball, Larry took a quick peek out of the
corner of his eye.
Then after he grabbed the ball with his back completely to the basket and
crowded by the two big defenders, Bird authored a two handed, over the
head diagonal BOUNCE pass that tighroped the baseline in the only spot
away from the Clipper defense that it could get through to teammate
Sensing the pass, Clipper guard Jim Brogan raced down the lane but too
late to try and deflect the pass - something that Bird had impressively
anticipated by throwing it away from him.
Big Mac was open under the basket and again was the recipient of one of
many great passes he got from the Legend, and this time he threw down an
emphatic two-hand dunk stuff to punctuate the incredible play.
The forethought, caution to the wind gambling, cunning and sheer passing
ability it took to execute such a high degree of difficulty pass put all
of Bird's mental and physical passing talents on display.
As Bob Cousy put it, the three players he saw or knew of who saw the
pass/play develop ahead of time and then were able to finish the feed were
himself, Ernie DiGregorio and Larry Legend.