Hall of Famer Larry Bird was convinced legendary 1984 NBA Finals were rigged

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The Celtics and Lakers truly began their NBA rivalry in the 1980s, where they dominated the NBA Finals for almost the entire decade. Nowadays, they are still tied with 17 league titles, despite the purple and gold having won this season’s first-ever In-Season Tournament. 

So much has already been said about this historic time in the NBA, as even documentary series has been created such as HBO’s Winning Time, but there a some dark moments that haven’t been mentioned in decades. One of these memories recently resurfaced about the time Larry Bird voiced out why he thought the famous 1984 Finals were rigged.

According to the Hall of Famer, who is considered one of the greatest players ever, at the time the league was desperate for increased TV ratings and fan relevance. This was a decade when Major League Baseball was still America’s most popular sport, and NFL was on the rise.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson was just starting to make a name for himself in Los Angeles, and the NBA saw the potential of further developing a superstar of his calibre to increase viewership.

The rivarly between him and Bird is still talked about four decades later. “The trophies and the rings and all that didn’t matter. It was all about beating the Lakers and beating Earvin,” said the Boston icon. “That’s all that mattered.”

This is why the league’s first big stage was set in 1984, as both franchises clashed together in the final phase. Lakers won Game 1 and 3, while the Celtics had 2 and 4, as they were tied up 2-2.

Commissioner David Stern saw the possibility of the Finals going into a best-of-four scenario, as before this time the last series of the season had been a best-of-three competition. “Stern told a fan that the NBA needed a seven-game series, that the league needed the money,” Bird recalled. “When the commissioner makes a statement like that to a fan, you know it’s going to be tough.”

This is why Larry, who went on to become a three-time league MVP, was convinced that Game 6 was rigged to force a blockbuster Game 7. “When Stern makes a statement like that, things are going to happen,” Bird said.

“You just don’t make statements like that and expect anything out of it,” he added. “He’s the commissioner and he shouldn’t be saying anything like that. The NBA wanted a seventh game because they wanted to make more money and they got their wish.”

The NBA director of public relations of the time went on to describe Bird’s comment as “ridiculous”

The superstar’s remarks eventually faded into league history, but if he would’ve voiced these accusations today, they would definitely have echoed into TV and social-media headlines.

Despite his theory, Game 7 was more favourable for the Celtics, as they won the championship with a 111-102 win at the Boston Garden. Brian McIntyre, who served back then as the NBA director of public relations, said Bird’s words were “ridiculous.”

“There’s nothing to it,” he said in relation to Larry’s accusations. “It’s all third-hand. I don’t think he (Stern) would ever say anything like that. It was a throw-away line if it was said.”

Whatever really happened, the league ended up as victorious, as they got what they wanted: a must-watch rivalry that would go to seven games. During the following six years left in the decade, either Boston or Los Angeles were in the Finals.