The True Story Of When Larry Bird Played An NBA Game Left-Handed

Larry Bird was a legend for many reasons. In the 1980s, he led the Boston Celtics to three NBA championship victories, completely turning around a struggling franchise. An epic rivalry grew between him and Magic Johnson. Bird averaged over 24 points per game, racking up an astonishing 21,791 points in 13 years, and was a 12-time All Star (via Britannica). Upon retirement, and with no coaching experience, he became a successful head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1997. He added Coach of the Year to his accolades.

The 6-foot-9 forward's physical abilities were top tier. For instance, "When I used to play, if I was in my room and I was on the road, I'd just go out for a run before games," Bird said, per Esquire. "In the city. Around the parking lot. On the track. I'd run around the top of the arena. Just something to keep me moving. A lot of players just couldn't do that. It wore them out for the game. I always thought it was better to run."

During one game at the peak of his career, however, Bird did something even crazier to push himself. He switched to his non-dominant hand.

The Valentine's Day Surprise

It was Valentine's Day 1986. Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics were in Portland taking on the Trail Blazers. The Blazers were a playoff-caliber team, but the Celtics were having a dominant season (they would go on to win the NBA Finals). Early in the game, wanting a challenge, Bird started shooting left-handed.

According to The Athletic, he scored 20 points from the field with his left hand, and another 27 points with his right. Known for his limitless confidence, he also casually sank three left-handed shots in a row in the fourth quarter to help keep the game close. This wasn't a blowout in which one might mess around, but Bird's left hand nonetheless took the Celtics to overtime, in which they won. He walked out of the stadium with a triple-double: 47 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists (via

There's no debate over whether this was an historic event, and it was quintessential Bird in three ways: It showcased his incredible talent, unshakable certainty, and love of making an absolute mockery of anyone who stood in his way.

Larry Bird, Trash Talker

Some might call Larry Bird's decision to switch things up disrespectful, whether in a serious way or affectionately. The Trail Blazers, it appeared, weren't even worthy of his dominant hand. "I'm saving my right hand for the Lakers," Bird joked to the media after the game (via USA Today).

Bird was notorious for talking smack and getting under the skin of opponents. "Larry Bird is the greatest trash talker and mind-game player of all time," Michael Jordan once said. "He taught me everything I know about getting in folks' heads" (via The Athletic). A long list of teammates and opponents have commented likewise. "I say this in the utmost complimentary way: Larry was a prick," declared Leo Rautins of the Philadelphia 76ers.

But if playing southpaw was a ploy to rub the Blazers the wrong way, Bird hasn't directly admitted it. For him it was all about the challenge, the fun. He said later on, "You have to play games left-handed or do different things to keep your interest in the game" (via NBC Sports).