When you think of Larry Bird, his greatness, legacy and playstyle, athleticism, and above-the-rim action aren't really the first things that come to mind. Hell, some would even say Larry did wonders in his career, considering his lack of athletic ability. But the ones who think that didn't really pay attention to the career of "Larry Legend."
Much more than a shooter
Larry's sweet shooting stroke was most definitely his biggest weapon, as the ability to score from anywhere on the floor made him a lethal offensive threat. Stretching the floor in an era that wasn't emphasizing the deep shoot made Bird unique. I'm pretty confident Bird would have been even more dominant in today's NBA. To add to that, at 6'9'', Larry's size allowed him to shoot over the top of his defenders with ease.
But aside from the impeccable shooting ability, Larry was a complete all-around player. From great playmaking ability (6.3 apg for his career), rebounding (10.0 rpg for his career) to defense (3x All-Defensive), Bird had the complete package. After all, these are stats and accolades you really wouldn't associate with unathletic players. But Bird could really do it all. Even dunk it with ferocity on occasion.
Rival John Salley explains why Bird dunked so infrequently
Bird managed to build up some hefty rivalries during his illustrious career with the Boston Celtics, especially with the Detroit Pistons "Bad Boys." The team known for its rugged, dirty, and unique style of play, focused solely on defense and shutting down guys one way or another. Bird was often the target of many cheap shots and defensive strategies, as one of their key pieces John Salley had many battles with Larry.
Spending nights in close quarters with him allowed Salley to see firsthand how great Bird was. So when he would hear people say Larry wasn't athletic at all, Salley would simply explain why they didn't know what they were talking about and explain why Bird conserved his energy on dunks:
"Like they would say that. And I would be like; I don't think they are playing the same guy I'm playing with. He was quick to get around you, quick to talk smack to you, quick to put two points in your face. And if he needed to, he'd get a dunk when he did. But he realized why should I jump up and dunk when I'm just wanting to put the ball in the basket."
John Salley, ">AllBasketballTV
Well, that is a very smart and simple mindset. A dunk is worth two points, just like any other shot, even less if you look at the three-pointer. So why expend too much energy on trying to dunk it when you can torch your opponents with the fundamental plays like layups and jump shots.
That is so much Larry's style, as he was one of the more astonishing players in his era despite not being the highest-flyer. The finesse and smooth all-around game mixed with the oozing confidence and love for trash-talking really made Larry Bird stand out in a sea of incredible athletes. Something not many players can do.