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Larry Bird admits surprise to evolution of NBA basketball, use of 3-point shot

Celtics playoffs

Larry Bird is broadly considered one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, a reality that may come as a surprise to a younger generation of league followers. Why? Today’s elite marksmen are all high-volume shooters from beyond the arc, which has led to the top of the list of most career three-pointers made being dominated by players who are still active or have just recently retired. Reggie Miller, in fact, is one of just two players ranked in the top-20 of three-pointers made who didn’t play in the 2010s.

Where does Bird rank on that list? All the way down at 225th, tied with former journeyman point guard Chris Duhon and Brooklyn Nets wing DeMarre Carroll.

A student of the game throughout his life and possessing one of the highest basketball IQs of all time, most would assume that Bird saw basketball’s three-point revolution coming. Wrong. As he told Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press, Bird always assumed the game would evolve in a much different manner.

“My concern 15 years ago was everybody’s going to be 6-(foot)-9 like Magic Johnson at the point guard and the little guys are going to get squeezed out. Now it’s just the opposite,” he said. “The big guys are getting squeezed out and the little guys are taking over, and the 3-point line has been there since 1980 and nobody utilized it until the last 15, 17 years. I can remember watching Kentucky play and Rick Pitino was shooting 3-pointers all the time and I go Jesus Christ, no way you can win like that. Now if you don’t do it, you’re not going to win.”

A consensus top-10 player of all time, Bird won three championships and three MVP awards with the Boston Celtics in the 1980s. His three-year coaching career with the Indiana Pacers culminated in an NBA Finals berth in 2000. Bird was hired as the Pacers’ president of basketball operations three years later, manning that position until 2017, when he stepped away to take on an advisory role with Indiana.