Dominique Wilkins believes that Larry Bird was unbeatable in the half-court, and that’s the reason that the 80s Boston Celtics were so great.
If you’ve watched LeBron James operate during the average regular season game, you have an inkling of how controllers play their role in basketball. There are a few players who’ve risen beyond the usual game, and are playing a game within it.
These are the players able to step their tempo and effort up for better results irrespective of the situation. They understand how to pace themselves and when to go all-out, 100%.
James demonstrates it time and again as he picks teams apart by imposing his team’s tempo and his tempo. However, those of us blessed to have watched Larry Bird know that there’s perhaps an even higher level to being a basketball savant.
“Larry Bird was evil, you couldn’t beat him in the half-court”: Dominique Wilkins
The Hawks legend was on the Bill Simmons podcast with Grantland several years ago. This was a time when Simmons was still an ESPN in-house talent.
Simmons quizzed the Human Highlight Reel liberally about his matchups with Larry Bird and the Celtics. Wilkins was effusive in his praise for the 80s Celtics, and especially Larry Legend:
“If you got them (80s Celtics) in the running game, you could beat them. But the problem was, what they were great at is slowing the game down, making you play at their pace.”
“And having one of the greatest players to ever lace a pair of shoes up, in Larry Bird. In the halfcourt situation, he was evil, you couldn’t beat him in the half-court.”
“And then you had Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, Dennis Johnson. Then you come off the bench with Bill Walton, Scott Whitman – they were deep, they were a deep team. But they played that grit and grind type of basketball. There was nothing uptempo about them.”