Skip to main content

"I’m guarding Joe Dumars and I seen Laimbeer standing there by himself" - Larry Bird on one of the greatest Boston Celtics moments of all time

Larry Bird didn't have enough time to think, but just enough time to make history. The best part - he wasn't going for the steal.
Boston Celtics guard Larry Bird

Larry Bird

To this day, many are still thrilled whenever they watch Larry Bird’s crucial steal off Isiah Thomas’ inbound pass in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals duel between the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons. And some may not know, but that short yet historic moment at the TD Garden entails a number of stories.

The Pistons were shattered

Back in the 80s, the East was a battleground for the most fearsome squads in the league. Among them were the infamous Pistons “Bad Boys.” Anchored by Thomas, the Pistons felt that 1987 was their year, and they managed to make it to the conference finals for the first time in history. However, they had to get past Bird and the Celtics first.

As expected, it was a tug of war. However, the C’s prevailed and advanced to the NBA Finals after winning the pulsating Game 7 at home. The series itself was epic, but the highlight above all was Boston’s 108-107 victory in Game 5 courtesy of Bird’s steal in the final five seconds of the game.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

It was supposed to be a foul

The Celtics were down by one point, and Bird drove baseline only to get blocked by two Pistons under the basket. Celtics guard Jerry Sichting failed to save the ball, and Detroit won the game’s final possession.

Then-Pistons head coach Chuck Daly was calling for a timeout, but Thomas rushed to inbound the ball. With just five seconds left on the clock, Thomas threw a lazy pass to Bill Laimbeer, and Bird came scorching for the steal. Just before he went out of bounds, Bird turned around and managed to pass the ball to Dennis Johnson, who dashed for a layup. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Reflecting on his sensational play, Bird revealed that he never thought of going for a steal; instead, he was ready to foul Laimbeer immediately and hoped they still had time for a buzzer-beater.

“After I got knocked down after trying to score on the last play, I get up and I’m guarding Joe Dumars and I seen Laimbeer standing there by himself, and all I did was run over there to try and foul him,” Bird began.

If a guy’s taking the ball out of bounds, you want to put some pressure on him to make him throw a lob pass or a soft pass out there,” he said. “Once I seen the ball being lobbed over Sichting’s head, I thought I had a chance at it. I got my hand in there and stole it. And just as I got it, I seen a white jersey streaking down toward the basket, and I turned. It was DJ, of course. He gets it and lays it in… It’s just one of them plays that happens so quick, you didn’t have time to react.

Whatever Bird wanted to do at that very moment was no longer important. What matters is one of the greatest steals in NBA history. 

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

“I can tell you the truth and it won't sound like false modesty” — Michael Jordan on what made him a special basketball player

Tony Robbins asked MJ what made him the greatest player of all time, and he loved Jordan's answer.

Philadelphia 76ers forward P.J. Tucker

“As long as we’re winning, it doesn’t matter” — P.J. Tucker on his lack of shots on the Philadelphia 76ers

Tucker acknowledged the absence of James Harden is impacting his offensive output.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley and Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut

“He has zero technical fouls in 15 seasons, that’s amazing” — Andrew Bogut astonished by unbelievable Mike Conley stat

In almost 1000 NBA games, Mike Conley was the ultimate professional and Andrew Bogut is putting the spotlight on that.

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin and Miami Heat small forward LeBron James and shooting guard Dwyane Wade

"You guys were panting" — Windhorst and Fizdale on the time LeBron James' Heat put an end to Linsanity

Brian Windhorst recalled that things got so tense that Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had to call a timeout to let his players breathe for a while.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose

“Coming in, he was my comparison” - Ja Morant on how Derrick Rose paved the way for athletic point guards

The similarities between Ja and prime Rose's games are uncanny, but here's to hoping the Grizzlies star can have a healthy career.