Larry Bird's Left-Handed Game

Larry Bird’s Left-Handed Game: NBA History

“I’m going to play this one left-handed.”

Why?

“I’m saving my right hand for the Lakers.”

It was Valentine’s Day, 1986, and Larry Bird’s Celtics were two days away from a Finals rematch with Magic Johnson’s reigning-champion Lakers in Los Angeles. Boston’s revenge-hued impending showdown with Showtime alone tenanted the forefront of Bird’s brilliant, mullet-sheathed mind, it was clear; but a Friday night face-off against burgeoning superstar Clyde Drexler’s Blazers in Portland stood between the match-up with Magic and the podium behind which Bird now offered his humorous and ambiguously sincere pre-game proclamation. 

The ensuing hours would reveal that Larry Legend had been at least half serious. 

The majority of Bird’s field-goal attempts, and 10 of his 21 makes that night at the Memorial Coliseum were indeed of left-handed origin.

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How many points did Larry Bird score in his left-handed game?

Shooting left-handed, Bird posted 47 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists — the most massive of his ten triple-doubles that season — and shot 21-of-34 (62 percent) from the field. Bird sent the game into OT with a right-handed jumper at the end of regulation, and then hit the game-winning shot — also a righty J — with three seconds remaining in the overtime period, giving the Celtics a 120-119 victory. 

Boston went on to defeat the Lakers that Sunday, and Bird went on to win his third straight MVP award after leading the Celtics to 67 wins. That June they beat Houston to win their third and final championship of the decade. Bird was named Finals MVP. 

Is there footage from Larry Bird’s left-handed game?

Footage does exist of Larry’s left-handed game, albeit a bit grainy. Watch the following clip as Larry Bird puts in floaters, layups, and jumpers all with his off-hand:

The Left-handed Game is probably my favorite of Larry’s legends, as it took place at the inarguable peak of his greatness, and it represents to me a perfect balance of nonfiction and myth.

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About Brett Usher: Co-founder of the Overstated NBA Show Podcast. You can follow Brett on twitter at @hooperbole!

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