The moment Larry Bird scored forty-seven points…

The moment Larry Bird scored forty-seven points…

Larry Bird was a basketball magician.

For over ten years in the 1980s and early 1990s, fans at Boston Garden and throughout the NBA were enthralled with his exhilarating shooting, passing, and rebounding.

Few of his games, though, are arguably as memorable as the 47 points Bird scored on Valentine’s Day 32 years ago, even though he was shooting with his off hand.

This is its backstory.

On February 14, 1986, the Boston Celtics were playing the Portland Trail Blazers, but it’s not Bird’s fault if he had his eyes set on the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics’ bitter rivals, two days later.

Bird desired to rest his shooting hand, which is his right hand. Thus, Bird made the decision to shoot exclusively with his off hand, his left, that evening, according to NBA.com’s This Week in History feature.

The outcome: Bird finished the game with 47 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists after going 10 for 21 from the field. In overtime, the Celtics prevailed 120-119.

The future Hall of Famer gave an explanation for his decision to use his off hand when shooting. “I’m holding off on using my right hand for the Lakers.”

The plan of action was successful.

Two nights later, Bird led the Celtics to a 105-99 victory over Magic Johnson and company in Los Angeles. He scored 22 points, pulled down 18 rebounds, and provided seven assists.

As you may remember, the Celtics defeated the Houston Rockets 4-2, and they went on to win the NBA championship that year—their third under Bird.

That night so long ago was remembered by Bill Walton, the gangly center who played a big role for the Trail Blazers and then the Celtics.

“Larry informed everyone—including the media—that tomorrow night would be the last night of the trip. This one, I’m going to play left-handed. And the following night in Portland, after three quarters, he had 27 points off the bench.”

Following his playing career, Bird assumed coaching duties and guided the Indiana Pacers to their lone NBA Finals appearance in 2000, against his old rival, the Lakers. He then led the Pacers from the front office for an additional fifteen years.

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