Is Larry Bird the best small forward in NBA history?

Wei Song

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In his rookie season (1979–1980), Bird immediately transformed the Celtics into a title contender. The team improved its win total by 32 games from the year before he was drafted and finished first in the Eastern Conference.[24][25] In his career debut, Bird recorded 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in a 114–106 win over the Houston Rockets.[26] On November 14, 1979, Bird recorded his first career triple-double with 23 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists in a 115–111 win over the Detroit Pistons.[27] On November 23, Bird recorded his first 30-point scoring game (along with 11 rebounds and 3 assists) in a 118–103 win over the Indiana Pacers.[28]

With averages of 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game for the season, he was selected to the All-Star Team and named Rookie of the Year.[19] In the Conference Finals, Boston was eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers.[25]

Before the 1980–81 season, the Celtics selected forward Kevin McHale in the draft and acquired center Robert Parish from the Golden State Warriors,[29][30] forming a Hall of Fame trio for years to come; the frontcourt of Bird, McHale, and Parish is regarded as one of the greatest frontcourts in NBA history.[31][32][33] Behind Bird's leadership and Boston's upgraded roster, the Celtics again advanced to the Conference Finals for a rematch with the 76ers.[34] Boston fell behind 3–1 to start the series but won the next three games to advance to the Finals against the Houston Rockets,[35] winning in six games and earning Bird his first championship.[34] He averaged 21.9 points, 14 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 2.3 steals per game for the postseason and 15.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 7 assists per game for the Finals.[19][36]

At the 1982 All-Star Game, Bird scored 19 points en route to winning the All-Star Game MVP Award.[37] At the conclusion of the season, he earned his first All-Defensive Team selection.[19] He eventually finished runner-up in Most Valuable Player Award voting to Moses Malone.[37] In the Conference Finals, the Celtics faced the 76ers for the third consecutive year, losing in seven games.[38] Boston's misfortunes continued into the next season, with Bird again finishing second in MVP voting to Malone and the team losing in the Conference Semifinals to the Milwaukee Bucks.[37][39]

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