Larry Bird Turns 50, Suns and Nets Each Score More Than 150It looked like "typographical error Thursday" but the numbers are in fact correct: Larry Bird celebrated his 50th birthday and the Phoenix Suns defeated the New Jersey Nets 161-157 in double overtime.
NBA TV devoted a whole day's worth of programming to chronicling Bird's extraordinary career. For those of us who grew up watching Dr. J, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, it is hard to believe that Bird is really 50 years old. TNT added some nice touches in its opening segment before the Detroit-Dallas game, as Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith offered their recollections of playing against Bird. Of course, TNT had to have a little fun, juxtaposing highlights of Smith stealing the ball from Bird with ones of Bird getting the best of Barkley on several occasions. Barkley joked that you could never get a referee's call in the Boston Garden before turning serious and saying that Bird and Magic belong on the "Mt. Rushmore" of sports figures from their era. He added that they saved the NBA and brought it to new heights and that every time he sees either one of them he thanks them for making him the person he is today.
Johnson admitted that he had a "distaste" for Bird until they had an opportunity to spend an afternoon together shooting a commercial for Converse; then they realized that they actually have a lot in common and could forge an off-court friendship despite their fierce on-court competition. Smith added, "They (Bird and Magic) showed what competition is all about...if you had a distaste (for your opponent), as Magic put it, you still competed fairly." That is such an important point. Playing hard and trying to win does not have to involved cheating or being disrespectful to your opponent. What is the value of a victory that is achieved unfairly or that involves disrespecting your competition? If you disrespect your opponent then you are also disrespecting the game and your own victory. That is something that the steroids cheaters, the taunters and the cheap-shotters (the Tennessee Titans football player who stomped on another player's head, to name just one of many) don't understand.
I didn't get to see the Suns-Nets game but, as Suns' Coach Mike D'Antoni suggested afterwards, it probably will be on ESPN Classic pretty soon. Just looking at the boxscore is fun: Steve Nash had a career-high 42 points, 13 assists and six rebounds; four Suns scored at least 23 points and Boris Diaw added 16 points and 14 assists; Jason Kidd had 38 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists, his 78th triple double, which tied him with Wilt Chamberlain on the career triple doubles list; Vince Carter had 31 points and nine assists, while Richard Jefferson had 25 points and eight rebounds; the teams combined to launch 224 field goal attempts and made 121 of them (.540); despite the frenetic pace and the two extra sessions, the teams combined for only 29 turnovers. That was truly a throwback game to cap off a throwback day during which NBA fans looked back to the 1980s, when Larry Bird was in his prime.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:06 AM