Larry Legend: Bird loves today’s wide-open, 3-heavy style

Hall of Famer Larry Bird experienced his best seasons during the NBA's golden age of the 1980s.

Larry Bird is regarded as one of the best shooters in the history of basketball.

Bird averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his 13-season Hall-of-Fame career with the Boston Celtics, then coached his native Indiana Pacers to the NBA Finals and went on to build them into a contender in the Eastern Conference as team president.

The only player in NBA history to be voted MVP, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year is thoroughly enjoying how the game has evolved into its present-day, wide-open style that features an abundance of 3-pointers.

“My concern 15 years ago was everybody’s going to be 6-(foot)-9 like Magic Johnson at the point guard and the little guys are going to get squeezed out. Now it’s just the opposite,” Bird told Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press. “The big guys are getting squeezed out and the little guys are taking over, and the 3-point line has been there since 1980 and nobody utilized it until the last 15, 17 years.

“I can remember watching Kentucky play and Rick Pitino was shooting 3-pointers all the time and I go Jesus Christ, no way you can win like that. Now if you don’t do it, you’re not going to win.”

While Bird won the first three 3-point contests at NBA All-Star Weekend, he has said he rarely practiced the shot. During Bird’s playing days, the trademark of NBA play was getting the basketball inside.

“Matter of fact, when I played we never guarded guys out there,” Bird told Mahoney.

Klay Thompson’s league-record 37-points in the third quarter of a game for the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 23, 2015 astounds even the guy known as “Larry Legend.”

“I mean, to me, I just can’t believe that,” Bird said. “I played this game. I’ve been out there and I got hot before, but to score 37 points? I remember I scored 24 in a quarter and I go, ‘Geez, nobody will ever do that again.’”

Bird, along with Johnson, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award during the NBA Awards show on Monday night. When he and Johnson came into the league after playing in the NCAA Tournament championship game in 1979 — still the highest-rated college basketball game in television history — for Indiana State and Michigan State, respectively, they transformed the NBA game.

“We came in in 1980. Here it is 2019. Whoever thought we’d be around this long?” Bird said. “But it’s a great honor and we’ve seen a lot in this NBA over the years, and a lot of good and it continues to get better.”

Bird casts a dubious eye on some of the stories that have come out regarding Johnson after his shocking resignation as president of the Los Angeles Lakers.

“That’s not him,” Bird told Mahoney. “That don’t sound like Magic at all to me and I just hope everything works out for him because we have a good relationship.”

After his remarkable career, winning NBA Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Celtics and being part of the original Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Bird, who still does some scouting for the Pacers, appreciates still being mentioned as part of the league’s greats.

“I’m not a guy that talks about my past because I always look to the future, but you really sit down and look at it, I’ve been involved in a lot, it’s pretty nice,” Bird said.