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Larry Bird’s Epic Motivation from Bill Walton Before a Legendary Game



FrThere wasn’t much to be unhappy about for the Boston Celtics during their impressive 1985-86 season. Led by Larry Bird, the team clinched 67 victories and secured their second championship in three years. A key contributor to this success was Bill Walton, who joined the Celtics at the start of the season in a trade that sent Cedric Maxwell away. Despite a career marred by injuries, Walton boosted the Celtics’ bench, providing crucial support to future Hall of Famers Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.


Walton played a career-high 80 games that season and was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. However, he also managed to irritate Bird before a game against the Dallas Mavericks, igniting a legendary performance from the Celtics star.


Larry Bird recalled feeling particularly frustrated with Walton before a match against the Mavericks in March 1986. In a video commemorating the 1986 championship, Bird mentioned how he was angry with both Walton and McHale for goofing around before the game. Bird, determined to prove a point, told them, “I don’t need you guys, I’ll win it by myself.” Bird went on to score 50 points that night, although the Celtics narrowly lost 116-115.


Walton’s integration into the Celtics was seamless despite the pre-game tension with Bird. Walton’s contributions, averaging 7.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game, were pivotal in keeping McHale and Parish fresh throughout the season. His performance on the court complemented Bird’s leadership and skill, making the team a formidable force.


Even though Bird was frustrated with Walton before that Mavericks game, their mutual respect was undeniable. Walton, who passed away on May 27, 2024, always considered Bird the best player he ever played with. During a 2020 interview, Walton praised Bird’s all-around capabilities, stating that Bird made every rebound, steal, and pass, making him the greatest player Walton ever played alongside.


Bird expressed his sorrow and admiration following Walton’s death, calling him a cherished friend and teammate. Bird highlighted the joy and privilege of playing with his childhood idol, underscoring Walton’s greatness on and off the court. Bird and his teammates were grateful for their time with Walton, who played a crucial role in their 1986 championship victory.

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