Larry Bird is one of the greatest shooters ever. Sadly, he played before the 3-point line was en vogue. But if he were in his prime today, there’s little doubt who the best stretch four in the NBA would be.
But that’s a different argument for a different day. Right now, we’re here to talk about that time the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy challenged Bird in 1985 to a free-throw shooting contest. Of course, Shaughnessy was mercilessly beaten and forced to surrender $160.
Adding insult to injury, Bird won with his right hand wrapped in tape. According to Shaughnessy, Bird had injured his shooting hand coming to the defense of a teammate in a bar, and he was taping it in practice to help with recovery. Here are more details from Shaughnessy himself, who went on Adam Himmelsbach’s podcast to tell the tale:
And no, Bird didn’t let the sportswriter keep his $160. Would you really expect such mercy from Larry Bird?
So after practice I’m like, ‘You can’t play with your hand taped like that in the game tomorrow.’ They were playing the 76ers in the conference finals. And they were gonna win that. They were gonna command that. But his shooting was starting to fall off, and with this hand injury, I’m like, what the hell? So I challenged him about this taping of the hand, how he could do that in the game, and he said, ‘I could tape my whole hand up, make more shots than you.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ But you could tell he’d done this before, it was like a pool hall kind of hustle deal. So he called the trainer over, Ray Melchiorre, and said ‘Let’s do this, I’ll tape my whole hand. I’ll make more shots than you. We’ll take 100 free throws, $5 a throw.’ He had the whole thing in his head. There’s a lot of writers around, I was like, ‘OK.’
Read the whole thing right away. Stories like this are why the guy’s nickname is literally "Larry Legend."