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To create a jump shot like Larry Bird’s, it takes decades and an unwavering commitment to excellence. The Hick from French Lick was much more than a shooter, but one of the Hall of Famer’s greatest talents was his ability to rise and fire above any opponent. It helped the Boston Celtics win the NBA championship in the 1980s.
During his 13-year career, Bird had many mentors, but it was his sixth-grade coach, of all people, who taught him a technique that helped him become one of the best jumpers of all time.
Larry Bird is regarded as one of the all-time best shooters in NBA history.
Over the course of his 13 seasons, Bird shot 49.6% from the field and 37.6% from beyond the arc. 3-pointers hadn’t yet taken on while he was playing in the 1980s, particularly not to the extent that they have in recent years.
Bird’s career high for 3-point attempts in a single season was 3.3. He only had three seasons in which he attempted more than three times each game. Despite this, he shot more than 40% from distance in six separate seasons.
If you extrapolate that to today’s NBA, Bird would be shooting at least seven three-pointers a game, if not more, and assuming he still shoots at least his career average of 37.6 percent, he’d be scoring closer to 30 points per game than 24.3.
Bird’s one of the most beautiful jump jumpers of all time would undoubtedly transfer to the league in 2021, making him a more dangerous offensive player. Because of his ability to spread the floor, a player who averaged more than six assists per game throughout his career would become even more of a playmaking danger.
In sixth grade, Bird’s jumper started to take form.
The Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird takes a shot against the Philadelphia 76ers. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Bird discussed some of the shooting secrets he picked up during his career that helped him become such a lethal marksman in a sit-down interview with ESPN. One of the techniques he learned from his sixth-grade coach was a basic one.
Bird claims that a wrist-strengthening workout helped him create his trademark jumper. He said that it was a simple, old-school technique of spinning a roller with ropes and weights attached:
“So my coach told me, ‘You’re going to strengthen your wrist.’ He was the head coach of the varsity team. As a result, I did it all the time. That, I believe, is one of the reasons I was able to shoot the way I did. That changed everything for me. I was in sixth grade — what, ten or twelve years old?”
Bird talks about how his sixth-grade instructor helped him improve his jump shot.
That maneuver, according to the three-time NBA MVP, helped him create a wrist-centric jumper known as a “slingshot.” The identical drill is said to be used by Kevin Durant, another of the NBA’s most lethal shooters.
“I [worked] on my wrists more than anything else. I’m not sure why.
“And I’d tell youngsters when they were eight, nine, or ten years old that I’d perform wrist exercises with them….” It’s fascinating to learn that [Durant] accomplished that, since it was always the key for me when I was younger.”
Bird became angrily when he learned that Kevin Durant does the same shooting drills he did as a kid.
Bird and the Celtics won three NBA titles as a result of that shot.
With Bird at the leadership, the Celtics won three titles in 1981, 1984, and 1986. When Boston won the 1981 championship, Bird was just 24 years old and in his second season, yet he averaged 24.9 points in 17 playoff games, shooting 47 percent from the field and 89.4 percent from the free-throw line.
Bird averaged 32.2 points with a 52.4/41.2/87.9 slash line in the 1984 playoffs, when he started to gradually integrate the 3-point shot into his repertoire. He made a career-high 3.5 three-pointers per game in the 1986 playoffs, shooting 41.4 percent from long range.
As the seasons progressed, Larry Legend started to shoot more threes, particularly as his agility waned and his back began to fail him. With the league’s focus on 3-point shooting in 2021, Bird’s numbers would be fascinating to examine.
And it all started with a very basic wrist exercise Bird did in middle school while playing basketball.
Basketball-Reference provided all statistics.
RELATED: Larry Bird praised Reggie Miller after the Pacers star beat Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals on one foot in 1998: ‘He put everything on the line and took the initiative.’
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