June 8 might not stick out in the minds of Boston Celtics fans, but it probably should.
Given how frequently the Celtics have played into June over their history, it shouldn’t be surprising that a random day in June holds some historical significance for one of professional sports’ most decorated franchises. But the day is especially meaningful from a historical perspective as it pertains to Celtics legend Larry Bird.
For starters, the Celtics officially signed Bird to his rookie contract on this day all the way back in 1979.
Almost one year to the day Boston selected Bird with the sixth pick in the 1978 NBA Draft (he returned to Indiana State for one more season), the C’s and the college standout agreed to terms on a contract for a guaranteed $3 million.
“Larry Bird is just another piece of the whole picture,” Red Auerbach said that day, according to The Boston Globe. “An important piece. This thing is another step in bringing the Celtics back to what we used to be. And believe me, we’re going to get there — a lot faster than people think.”
Bird offered a similar take, downplaying his role in joining the organization.
“I read my contract and I didn’t see anything about being a savior,” he said.
“I think people are going to like him,” Bird’s agent Bob Woolf said.
It was a day of understatements, apparently.
Bird, of course, became one of the greatest players in basketball history. He led the Celtics to three titles during his Hall of Fame career, and two of his most impressive NBA Finals performances fell on June 8.
The first came in Game 5 of the 1984 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, aka the “Heat Game.” Bird got hot early and often, going off for a game-high 34 points on a ridiculous 15 of 20 shooting, while also grabbing a game-high 17 rebounds in one of the finest games he’s ever played.
Just two years later, Bird put the finishing touches on a Finals MVP performance with a triple-double in the deciding Game 6 against the Houston Rockets. Bird’s final line that early June night: 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists — all game-high totals. He thinks it was the greatest game he’s ever played, and it’s hard to find anyone who’ll argue.
“Larry Bird is where he wants to be. He has reached the pinnacle of basketball,” K.C. Jones said after the game.
“Nothing Larry Bird does surprises me, and everything he does impresses me,” Bill Walton added.