Signs With Boston Celtics
Bird signed a $3.25 million, five-year contract with the Celtics in 1979. With an abysmal record of 29-53 the prior year, Bird joined a team at the bottom of the NBA. Along with Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale, Bird turned the team around in dramatic fashion. The Celtics went 61-21 in Bird's first season in Boston, an accomplishment that helped him win NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 1980. The following year the Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers on their way to the NBA finals, where they faced the Houston Rockets. The Celtics took the series, the first of its three NBA championships in the 1980s.
Along with Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers, Bird's Celtics were the dominant team in the NBA in the 1980s. The two stars greatly increased the popularity of professional basketball during the decade, with Johnson epitomizing the glamour of a sports superstar and Bird demonstrating the value of hard work and endless practicing. Although the two players were a study in contrasts, they maintained a friendly relationship off the court and a sportsmanlike rivalry on the court. Between 1983 and 1988, either the Celtics or Lakers emerged as NBA champions. When the two teams met up in the finals in 1984, the Celtics came out on top with four games in the seven-game series. The following year the Lakers won the championship in six games over the Celtics and in 1986 Boston won the finals for a third time with Bird. It was the last championship Bird claimed; in 1987 the Lakers beat the Celtics again in six games.
In addition to his three NBA championships with the Celtics, Bird also earned Most Valuable Player awards for the playoffs in 1984 and 1985 and was named the NBA's Player of the Year three consecutive times, from 1984-86. In 1985 he also picked up Man of the Year honors from the Sporting News and was named Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press. Bird's humble nature, his emphasis on teamwork, and his sportsmanlike conduct also made him a favorite with basketball fans, who routinely made Celtics home games a sold-out event.
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