As reported on July 8th, by numerous media outlets, Larry Bird gave an interview with Sirius Radio and said, “I know back in the day, I couldn’t imagine going to the Lakers and playing with Magic Johnson. I’d rather try to beat him."
No real shock there.
However, on today's episode of Celtics Beat Podcast, RealGM Radio host Danny Leroux, brought up some very interesting statements about The Legend that Celtics Beat host, Larry H. Russell, immediately scoffed at. As heard in the attached media player (15.58 Minute Mark Below) , Leroux said, "If we are talking about legacies, and this was true with LeBron James, one of the important things to remember is, a lot of the great players in history, people think, oh, they didn't change teams," Leroux continued, "Michael Jordan didn't have as a good of a core around him but, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had all-stars and Hall of Famers."
Celtics Beat host, Larry H. Russell, immediately disagreed. Though Russell agreed with Danny on the Celtics' 1984 and 1986 teams, he completely disagreed on the Celtics' 1981 championship squad. Russell said, "Larry Bird won a championship in 1981 really without a dynamite supporting cast." LHR cited an "aging Tiny Archibald ," and Robert Parish as a "reclamation project." He also stated the facts that Kevin McHale was a rookie, averaging 9 point per game. LHR forgot the 1981 Finals MVP, Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell but we can give him a pass there. In 1981, Maxwell could have been compared to Antwon Jameson on the 2009-10 Cavs roster. Maxwell and Jameson both played power forward and both averaged 15 points and, at least, 6 rebounds per game. Jameson actually averaged 1 rebound more than Cedric at 7 per game.
The two continued with their point, counter-point, as Leroux compared the '81 Celtics to the '10 Cleveland Cavaliers, stating, "I would say that the '81 [Celtics] cast, at the very least, was better than what Cleveland had when LeBron left the team the first time." Russell "unequivocally" agreed.
I completely disagree with both Leroux and Russell on their Durant/LeBron, 80-81 Celtics/09-10 Clevland Cavaliers analogy.
I've heard a lot of defense for LeBron James recently. The media pundits continue to give LeBron a pass for abandoning the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland in 2010 by saying, that team had a roster of LeBron James and a bunch of players named Fred... or something to that effect.
The Cavaliers actually had a bunch of current and former ALL-STARS named LeBron James (29.7 ppg/8 apg), Mo Williams (16 ppg), Antwan Jameson (16 ppg/8 rpg), Shaquille O'Neal (12 ppg), and aging Shaq but none the less, still a force in the paint. That Cavs team filled out their roster with four other role players who averaged nearly 10 points per game, including a very respected Anderson Varejo, averaging nearly 9 ppg and 8 rpg. That team finished 1st in the eastern conference, won 62 games AND had, undeniably the very best player in the NBA. In 2009-10, LeBron James won the regular season MVP for the 2nd consecutive year. He was also All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team. Yet, the Cleveland Cavaliers, 62-20, lost to the Boston Celtics, barely a 50 win team, in six games because LeBron James gave up! I witnessed it first-hand as I covered that series for CLNS Radio. Not to mention, LeBron James arguably had his move to Miami PLANNED well before the 2009-10 NBA season even started- cue the number change conspiracy theory.
I'm finished with the media pundits, putting LeBron James on a pedestal in comparison to Kevin Durant who chose to do a very similar thing.
Now that I've gotten the LeBron bashing out of my system, we can digress to the original intent of this column.
on July 8th, numerous media outlets (not named CLNS Radio) reported Larry Bird's statement that he would never have joined forces with the Lakers and Magic Johnson. As a Celtics guy, I would expect The Legend to say nothing more. However, he said quite a bit more and some of which can be considered in defense of both Kevin Durant's exodus from the Oklahoma City Thunder AND Danny Leroux's defense of Durant on this week's Celtics Beat Podcast.
After making the Lakers/Magic Johnson declaration, Bird went on to say, "I could never imagine myself going and joining another team with great players, because I had great players and I was in a great situation." Bird continued, “When these players get together and go play, it just makes them a lot stronger," Bird said. "But that’s why we have free agency. If they stay within the rules, I have no problem with it and I’m happy for them."
Larry Bird runs the Indiana Pacers, some day he may even take the option to sign a top tier free agent that's so closely tied to their franchise as James and Durant are/were, that is, if there's any said free agents left in the NBA... I suppose Larry Bird has to protect his own credibility by being a bit PC on the subject. That said, Bird's comments on Durant were quite telling, “When these players get together and go play, it just makes them a lot stronger," Bird said. "But that’s why we have free agency. If they stay within the rules, I have no problem with it and I’m happy for them."
My take is, Larry Bird the player would never have left the Celtics for the Pistons, Sixers or Lakers of the day. Let's not forget, Bird was rumored in many trades in 1988-89 and he demanded to stay put, even though he, and the Boston Celtics were no longer considered odds-on favorites to win the NBA Championship every season. Nope, Bird stayed put. That said, Larry Bird the GM of the Indiana Pacers, acknowledges that player and team loyalties exhibited in the pre-LeBron James era, no longer exist. If Bird was playing in today's NBA, would he have accepted those rumored trades that swirled around about him in the late 80's?
As sacrilegious as it may be, coming from a proud NBA traditionalist such as myself, I honestly think he might have.
Celtics Beat Episode 165: Featuring RealGM Radio's Danny Leroux & CSNNE's Abby Chin: