NBA legend Larry Bird turns 60 on Wednesday.
What’s neat about Bird going from 59 to 60 is this: Those are 2 important numbers in summarizing Bird’s career.
59 – Bird had 59 triple-doubles in the regular season. That ranks fifth all time. Russell Westbrook, who ranks sixth, is 11 behind.
60 – Bird’s single-game career high for points and the Boston Celtics single-game scoring record is the 60 he scored against the Hawks at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on March 12, 1985 (Atlanta played 12 "home" games there that season). Bird broke Kevin McHale’s scoring record (56), set nine days earlier against the Pistons. Bird had 23 points at halftime, scored 19 in the third quarter and 18 in the fourth.
“I don’t think I would like this gym, but I had a good feeling from the first quarter on, even though it was awfully hot,” he told reporters afterward.
Bird’s career is about much more than those two numbers. So let’s celebrate a few other fun facts.
Bird is the last player to win three straight NBA MVP awards. He did so in 1983-84, 1984-85 and 1985-86. Bird is one of three players to win at least three in a row, along with Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
Bird averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists five times in his career. That’s the most such seasons in NBA history, one more than Wilt Chamberlain.
Bird won the first three 3-Point Shootouts held at the NBA All-Star Game. The only other player to win three is Craig Hodges. In 1986, Bird set the standard by making 11 consecutive 3-point shots in the competition. Hodges broke that mark with a record-setting 19 in 1991.
Bird’s career high for 3-pointers in a season is 98 (1987-88). That ranked fourth in the NBA that season. Alas, the game has changed: In 2015-16, it would have ranked tied for 75th.
Bird had a .687 win percentage in three seasons as a head coach. If we set the minimum to 200 games, that win percentage ranks fourth in NBA history, behind Phil Jackson (.704), Billy Cunningham (.698) and Gregg Popovich (.693).
Bird has the highest win percentage of any coach not to win an NBA title, regardless of any minimum number of games coached.
Bird enjoyed a phenomenal collegiate basketball career at Indiana State (30.3 points per game in a three-year career that included a trip to the national championship game). But since Bird joined the NBA in 1979, only one other player from Indiana State has made the NBA – Carl Nicks, who played 156 games from 1981 to 1983.
Bird is the second player who turned 60 this week whose career high for points in a game was 60. Former Bird rival and Knicks star Bernard King turned 60 on Sunday.