When Magic Johnson said that Larry Bird was the only player he feared playing against, that’s a testament to the type of player Bird was. But for a player to be considered an all-time great, part of his resume should include championship rings. How many rings does Larry Bird have?
Larry Joe Bird was a winner on the court, someone you can never count out, or he’ll make you pay. He’d tell opponents what he would do and then laugh and talk smack in your face while hitting the game-winning shot.
How good was “Larry Legend” when he was at the top of his playing career? Let’s find out.
How Many NBA Championship Rings Does Larry Bird Have?
Larry Bird won three NBA championship rings. Bird joined the Boston Celtics when the team was struggling, and he immediately turned the franchise around. In his rookie year, Bird led the team to a 32-win improvement and then won a championship won a season later. That first chip with Bird came in 1981 and won it again in 1984 and 1986.
NBA Finals Stats
Here are some of Larry Bird’s best NBA Finals stats:
- In 31 NBA Finals games, Larry Bird averaged 23.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, six assists, and two steals.
- Bird notched a double-double in 24 NBA Finals games.
- He is one of only eight players in NBA history to average a 20-point double-double in the Finals. The others were LeBron James, Elgin Baylor, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bob Pettit, and Moses Malone.
- Bird scored the 16th most points in NBA Finals history with 716. That’s more than Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen, and Wilt Chamberlain.
- Larry is one of only two players who scored at least 500 points, grabbed 150 rebounds, and dished 150 dimes in the postseason. The other is none other than LeBron James.
Prior to the NBA
Larry Bird was born to Georgia and Claude Joseph “Joe” Bird in West Baden Springs, Indiana. He was raised in French Lick, Indiana, with a sister and four brothers. His famous nickname, “The Hick from French Lick,” speaks to his hometown.
Bird played high school basketball at Springs Valley High School before his playing days with the Indiana State University Sycamores and the Boston Celtics.
Bird received a scholarship to Indiana University to play under legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight. He left IU after not taking to the larger university’s size.
With the Sycamores, Bird led the teams to a 33 & 1 record his senior season. The Sycamores lost to the Michigan State Spartans, led by Magic Johnson, in the NCAA Championship game.
That NCAA tournament game is recognized as one of the most iconic games not only in the tournament but in basketball history. It began the Magic/Bird rivalry that would carry through to the Lakers/Celtics rivalry.
Bird left college ball as the fifth-highest scorer in NCAA history, averaging 30.3 points per game.
An Overview of Larry Bird’s NBA Championships
Bird’s arrival in Boston is the very definition of immediate impact. The team quickly went on to win 61 games from a dismal 29 the previous season.
Not only did he save the Celtics, but many basketball historians believe his rivalry with Magic Johnson saved the league. Larry Bird was a godsend in a league wallowing in poor TV ratings, beset with an image issue of violence amid the idea that the game was becoming too selfish.
As a player, he could do everything. But apart from his scoring and all-out hustle, Bird knew how to get his teammates involved. By constructing a good team around him, Bird made it to five NBA Finals, winning three.
It was well known that Bird was considered one of Red Auerbach’s favorite players. Auerback selected him in the NBA draft out of Indiana State and waited a full year before Bird was eligible to suit up for Boston. Shortly thereafter, the NBA changed NBA drafting rules preventing teams from signing players before they were ready to play. The rule came to be known as the Bird Collegiate Rule.
When Bird joined the Celtics, three teams dominated the league: the LA Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Detroit Pistons. Bird won the Rookie of the Year award in the 1979-80 season. He led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Bird won three NBA regular season MVP awards, the first being in 1984. Bird won two NBA Finals MVPs and was named 12 times as an NBA All-Star. He was a nine-time All-NBA First-Team selection.
Bird and his Dream Team teammates won a gold medal in Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics.
He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.
Larry Bird Clutch Moments Video
First Championship Ring (Boston Celtics vs. Houston Rockets, 1981)
This championship series appeared lopsided from the outside, but the Rockets kept it interesting. That’s surprising, considering they only won 40 games in the regular season. This is only the third and last time a team with a losing record made it all the way to the NBA Finals.
Houston, led by Moses Malone, tied the series in Game 4. Malone let the world know how he felt about the Boston Celtics and threw verbal jabs their way after an incredible 22-rebound performance.
The Celtics, however, had other plans. Cedric Maxwell notched 28 and 15 in Game 5, while Larry Bird finished the job with 27 and 13 in the next game. Maxwell was named the Finals MVP on this one since Bird did struggle for a few games. Nevertheless, he was there when it mattered the most.
Second Championship Ring (Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 1984)
This was the first Finals matchup between Bird and Magic, and boy, was it good as advertised. The storylines were in place. Johnson got the better of Bird in the 1979 NCAA Championship, so the latter naturally wanted to avenge that loss.
And avenge he did! Bird did struggle a little bit in Game 7, but he led the Celtics in scoring in five games. He ultimately averaged 27.4 points, 14 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.1 steals. Those numbers were enough to get Larry the Finals MVP nod.
Third Championship Ring (Boston Celtics vs. Houston Rockets, 1986)
This year was supposed to be Bird and Magic’s third consecutive Finals meetup, but again, the Houston Rockets spoiled the party. Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon led the team from H-Town, and they had a good crew complementing the “Twin Towers.” After losing Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, Houston won the next four games to book a ticket to the championship.
But Larry Bid prevented the Rockets from securing another upset. The series was never in doubt as the Celtics took a 3-1 lead and finished it in Game 6. Bird had a huge triple-double– 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists– to close out the series and win his second Finals MVP.
Statistically, Bird almost did what nobody at that point has done. He nearly averaged a triple-double in the NBA Finals, mainly because of the emergence of Kevin McHale. With another reliable big man to feed the ball to, Bird was good for 9.5 dimes a game, in addition to 24 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.7 steals.
Larry Bird’s All-Time Records
- Bird is the only non-center to win the NBA MVP three years in a row. The only other players were behemoths Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
- He is the only person in NBA history to win MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year. Talking about a winner!
- Bird won the three-point contest three consecutive times. He did so in its inaugural year from 1986 until 1988. The only other person to win three in a row was Craig Hodges.
- The only player to have a stat line of at least 28 points, 19 rebounds, 15 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks.
- Only other player to have at least 49 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 blocks in a game. The other one is Michael Jordan.
Take a look at Bird’s career stats at Basketball Reference.
Larry Bird’s Rivalry and Friendship With Magic Johnson
As phenomenal as Bird’s career was in itself, it’s impossible to talk about him without mentioning Magic Johnson. As previously mentioned, they came into the NBA at just the right time. The league was in shambles, and it needed a savior. Well, it got two!
The rivalry began in college but took a wild turn when they got to the NBA. It also did not help that they were drafted by two teams who already hated each other. Bird later said there was real animosity when they played the Lakers. The feeling was obviously mutual. There were no plans of giving handshakes or any other form of goodwill.
“We’re so competitive anyway that there was a dislike there,” Johnson recalled in an interview with NPR. “I even hated him more because I knew he could beat me.”
In his usual eloquent self, Magic once said, ‘Larry Bird was so good he’s scary.’ On the other hand, Bird thought Magic played the same way he envisioned the game to be played — fun, unselfish, and doing just about anything to help the team win.
After shooting a Converse commercial in the 80s in Bird’s hometown (French Lick, Indiana), the once bitter rivals became good friends. They actually did not talk to each other before the shoot, but Magic remembered a turning point in why hostility turned into a deep friendship.
“His mom gave me the biggest hug and hello, and right then, she had me,” Johnson says. “Then Larry and I sat down for lunch, and I tell you, we figured out we’re so much alike. We’re both from the Midwest; we grew up poor, our families [are] everything to us, and basketball is everything to us. So that changed my whole outlook on Larry Bird.”
The Larry Bird Legacy: GOAT Trash-Talker?
As much as the name Larry Bird was synonymous with winning, his legend grew because of his barbaric skill of talking trash. The Boston Celtics great’s ability to back up his outspoken talk only added to his reputation. It was playful, and yet it cuts to the heart.
Hear some NBA legends recall some of Larry Bird’s iconic trash talk:
“We’d been going at it all night. It was tied, or they were up one. He just told me, “Xavier, I’m going to get this ball right here, and I’m going to shoot it in your F’in face.” And I said, “I know. And I’m going to be sitting right here waiting.”
“He went to the spot and got it. He nudged me back with his shoulder a little bit to clear space. I jumped to try to block it. He hit it, looked at me, and said, “F—, I didn’t mean to leave nothing on the clock.”
The thing I love about him is that he was a s**t talker. The dude would just tell you where he’s going, shoot it in your face, talk s**t to you, and run back down the floor. He was the biggest s**t talker in the league back in the day. He would tell you exactly where he was going, what he was gonna do. And he did that to us in the Finals.
“He was like, ‘Guys, don’t worry about it. I’m gonna go right over there to the corner. I’m gonna catch the ball, I’m gonna shoot it, and there ain’t s**t y’all can’t do about it.’ And he did exactly that.”
Michael Cooper (before the three-point contest)
“Larry walks in and says I hope all you guys in here are thinking about second place because I’m winning this.”
“I was guarding him my rookie year, he looked at me, and he goes “you can’t stop me”…I looked at him and said, “Gosh, boy, you’re so confident.” He goes, “Confident? You’re a rookie; you don’t know anything!”
“He proceeded to score ten straight points on me, the coach took me out of the game, he walks by, and he’s laughing at me.”
“Hey, Frank, haven’t you got anyone on the bench who can guard me? Because nobody out here can.” Frank looks down the bench, and he goes, ‘no!’”
“I’ve got a pulled hamstring, so I’m not playing. He walks down to me and says, “Man, I’m sorry you’re not playing, but I’m a tell you what, you’re here. I’m going put on a show for you, so you just sit back and watch.”
“I’m like, “Get out of my face, man.” I don’t wanna hear that; that’s Celtics and the Lakers! Every time he hit one, he looked at me.”
Bill Walton (former teammate)
At the end of one of the trips,” Bill Walton said, “He had accomplished every goal, we hadn’t lost a game on the trip, and Larry told all of us players and the media too; we were all standing around waiting to leave; he said, “Tomorrow night’s the last game of the trip, I’m going to play this one left-handed, at least through three quarters.”
“At the end of three quarters, the next night in Portland against poor Jerome Kersey, he had 27 points. It was a remarkable performance.”
ML Carr (former teammate)
“Larry said, ‘you guys want to win the game?’ And I said, ‘sure, absolutely!’ he goes, “give me the ball and get out the way!”
Danny Ainge (former teammate)
“He’d say Danny give me the ball or DJ, give me the ball; I got this guy in the torture chamber right here while the guy was standing right there listening to him say it!”
You might enjoy the best Larry Bird quotes page.
“I would be all over him, trying to deny him the ball, and all Larry was doing was yelling at his teammates; I’m open! Hurry up before they notice nobody is guarding me!” Then he would stick an elbow in my jaw and stick the jumper in my face; then he would start in on my coach, “Coach, you better get this guy out and send in somebody who’s going to D me up because it’s too easy when I’m wide open like this!”
Bird Post-Playing Days
After many successful seasons as a Celtic, Bird was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers. He went on to win NBA Coach of the Year. He moved to the front office and served as the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations.
Bird won the NBA Executive of the Year in 2012, making him the only person in NBA history to win an MVP as a player, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.
Larry Bird’s Personal Life
Larry Bird married Dinah Mattingly in 1989. They have a son named Connor, a daughter named Mariah, and Bird has a daughter from a previous marriage named Corrie.
Larry Bird’s net worth is estimated at over $75 million.
How Many NBA Championships Have Other Greats Won?
Here are the players with the most NBA Championship rings:
Sam Jones: 10 rings.
John Havlicek: 8 rings.
Scottie Pippen: 6 rings.
Shaquille O’Neal: 4 rings.
Larry Bird: 3 rings.
Larry Bird NBA Rings FAQ
Here are some frequently asked questions about Larry Bird and NBA Championships.
Larry Bird won three NBA championships with the Boston Celtics.
Larry Bird did not win any NBA Championships as a coach. He was selected as Coach of the Year after his first season coaching the Indiana Pacers.
Magic Johnson won five NBA Championship rings to Larry Bird’s three.
Larry Bird was 6’9” tall and weighed 220 pounds.
Final Thoughts: How Many Rings Does Larry Bird Have?
It’s almost a travesty to leave Larry Bird out of the GOAT conversation. Basketball-wise, he is just as good as Magic. The Lakers icon may be the better passer, but Bird was the better scorer, shooter, rebounder, and defender. Unfortunately, that did not reflect in the championship count, as Magic overtook him in that metric.
So, how many rings does Larry Bird have? Bird has three championship rings as he led the Celtics to the promised land in 1981, 1984, and 1986. He was part of two more NBA Finals series (1985 and 1987), but Bird fell to the Los Angeles Lakers on both occasions.
But should that diminish anything the guy did? Of course not! In Bird’s case, injuries have played a huge part, not only to him but to his teammates. He played 12 years, but at least half of it with a bum back. It has gotten so bad that he has to lie down every time he rests on the bench. And in true legendary fashion, even that did not completely stop Larry Bird.
By Jan Rey with Mike O’Halloran
Jan is a sucker for all things basketball and still yells, “Kobe!” every time he tosses a crumpled paper into a trash bin. Mike has written three books on youth basketball coaching.
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