Basketball Legends Revealed #5

This is the fifth in a series of examinations of basketball-related legends and whether they are true or false.

Let’s begin!

BASKETBALL LEGEND: Larry Bird played a game where he shot all of his shots left-handed.

STATUS: False

On Valentine’s Day, 1986, Larry Bird gave a love letter, of sorts, to his fans when he thrilled them with a striking example of Bird’s ability to shoot from both hands, his normal right hand as well as his left hand (Bird used his left hand to eat when he was not playing basketball).

The first few baskets Bird scored against the Portland Trailblazers (on a West Coast Trip the Celtics were on at the time) were done with his left hand…

But the story over the year has grown to the point where it is said that Bird played the game ENTIRELY left-handed.

That is not so, although even late in the game, Bird continued to use his left-hand (but really just on close to the basket shots).

I believe his game-winning shot was right-handed, but it’s hard to tell exactly…

But yeah, in any event, Bird had an amazing game, with 22 of his 47 points that day coming from his left hand.

That’s really impressive.

It just isn’t nearly a game where Bird “shot the ball with his left-hand the whole game” or even the alternative, “Bird shot the ball with his left hand when it was close to the basket the whole game,” although the latter is closer to being correct.

What’s interesting is that the previous season, also against the Trailblazers (although at home), Bird made a tremendous shot late in the game to give the Celtics a two-point lead and THAT was with his left hand…

Clyde Drexler actually answered right back with a last-second three pointer to give the Blazers a one-point lead, but Bird answered back to THAT with a buzzer-beating two pointer for the Celtic victory, 128-127.

In any event, the moral of this lesson, I believe, is just that Larry Bird was really, really good.

Just not “score every basket with his left hand” good.

BASKETBALL LEGEND: Del Harris once set a pick on Michael Adams during a game!

STATUS: True

Michael Adams probably had the best year of his career in the 1990-91 season, while with the Denver Nuggets.

And he was having a particularly good game against the Milwaukee Bucks on January 29, 1991, as the guard went for 41 points in the game!

Well, Bucks coach Del Harris was none too pleased with this.

So somewhat late in the game, when he was particularly angry that no one seemed to be getting in front of Adams to block his path to the basket, Harris HIMSELF stepped on to the court!

And there, he unbelievably stayed in front of Adams…

Who promptly ran in to him…

And was “knocked over,” which was a good plan by Adams, because he wanted to make sure he would get the foul shots and the ejection of Harris that undoubtedly would happen if the opposing coach interacts with the other team’s players…

Hopefully Adams didn’t actually think he was convincing anyone that Harris honestly knocked him down – as if Harris was like a brick wall (Harris was 51 years old at the time).

My favorite bit is this shot, where Adams is shown pointing to Harris, as if the referees would have missed the opposing coach checking a player on the other team.

Gee, thanks for the heads up, Michael!

Naturally, Harris was ejected (and the Nuggets got two free throws) and the Nuggets pulled out the victory, 126-122.

BASKETBALL LEGEND: Dave Cowens once took a break from the Celtics during the season to drive a cab.

STATUS: True

Dave Cowens was the fourth overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft and was named Co-Rookie of the Year at the end of that season.

By his third season in the NBA, Cowens was one of the best centers in the game, and in that 1972-73 season, Cowens averaged 20.5 points per game and 16.2 rebounds on the way to being named the NBA Most Valuable Player (although, amusingly enough, he did not make the First Team All-NBA, something he never managed to crack during his career).

After the Celtics won the NBA title in 1974, Cowens actually wandered around Boston celebrating with the “regular folks.” He famously ended up sleeping on a park bench that night. That was likely a sign of things to come for Cowens (think Pulp’s “Common People” – actually, instead, think William Shatner’s cover of Pulp’s “Common People”).

The Celtics won another title in 1976.

The following year, though, Cowens was feeling “burned out,” so he actually took a 65-day leave of absence from the Celtics to, I guess, find himself or whatever.

And, true to “common people” form, Cowens drove a cab during this time off (early in 1977).

He returned to the Celtics and played 50 games that season, but still, wow, that’s some weird stuff right there.

Cowens took a crack at being the coach of the Celtics in 1978-79 (a player-coach), but did not enjoy it, so he quit as coach. He did not like his replacement, though, Bill Fitch, so after playing for him for one season, Cowens decided to retire.

In one last bizarre move, Cowens decided to “un-retire” two years later and put his services on the open market. His former teammate, Don Nelson, was now the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, so they signed Cowens, but had to trade Quinn Buckner to the Celtics because the Celtics still owned the rights to Cowens.

After one mediocre half season in Milwaukee, Cowens retired – this time for good.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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