25 Years Ago: Bird Lights Up Hawks For 60, Record

Joe GillCorrespondent IIMarch 13, 2010

1990:  Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird shoots a layup during game against the Golden State Warriors at the Oakland Colesium Arena in Oakland, California. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr.  /Allsport
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

On March 3, 1985, Kevin McHale one of the Celtics’ famed “Big Three” had the game of his life versus the Detroit Pistons. McHale left the game with 1:25 remaining with 56 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks, and four assists. The Celtics crushed the Pistons 138-129 at the Garden.

Kevin McHale broke the Boston Celtics’ record for most points in a single game which was held by Larry Bird. Bird scored 53 two years earlier.

Larry praised McHale’s performance by saying, “There aren’t too many times you have an opportunity to score that many points. Kevin will probably not score that many again. Today he was awesome; he deserved it.”

Bird added, “He should have gone for 60.”


Indeed, McHale should have gone for 60. No record is safe with Larry Joe Bird on your team.

The Celtics would travel to New Orleans to face the Atlanta Hawks on March 12, 1985.

New Orleans is known as the “Big Easy” and Larry Bird made it look very easy on this night.

The 10,079 people who crammed into the tiny University of New Orleans arena had no idea what they were about to witness.

Just nine short days after McHale broke his team record for scoring, Larry Bird put on a shooting performance for the ages.

It was an offensive clinic and Bird was the teacher.

Jump shot.

Fade away.

Lay up.

Free throw.

Three point bomb.

Bird had 23 points at the half as Boston held a 65-58 lead. However, he was just heating up. The Hawks had nothing in their defensive repertoire to stop him. This was Larry Bird’s game.

The second half was when Bird took his game to another level, if that is actually possible. The Celtics sniper scored 19 points in the third quarter bringing his game total to 42 points.

Boston had an 11 point advantage entering the final frame. Bird needed 14 points to tie McHale’s record. The record was within his grasp.

The crowd and Hawks players knew something special was happening. It was inevitable that Bird was going to break the record.

He just couldn’t miss.

Bucket after bucket.

The Hawks players were falling off their chairs in disbelief as Bird drained impossible shot after impossible shot.

The crowd mostly dominated by Celtics fans was in frenzy. They wanted Larry Bird to break the record and his teammates did as well. Even the current record holder, Kevin McHale, continued to feed Bird the rock.

He was hitting ridiculous off balance shots when with Atlanta players fouling him.

His performance can be summed up with one word, awesome.

Bird broke McHale’s record on a free throw late in the fourth quarter. Who was the first person to congratulate him? Of course it was Kevin McHale.

Nine days earlier, Bird told McHale he should have gone for 60.

Bird took his own advice.

Dennis Johnson fed him a pass at the top of the key and Bird drained a jumper for his 59th and 60th points at the buzzer.

Bird was then mobbed by his teammates.

He scored 18 points in the fourth. He was 22 for 36 from the field. He made 15 out of 16 free throws.

Bird recaptured the record for most points in a game by a Boston Celtic. A record held by his teammate, Kevin McHale for just nine short days.

“Sixty points is awful tough to get and you can’t do it without the help of your teammates”, Bird said in a post game interview.

This wasn’t just Bird’s record. It was Kevin McHale’s. Dennis Johnson’s, Robert Parrish’s, and Danny Ainge’s.  The Boston Celtics were an unselfish team that played for one another.

No individual can achieve greatness without the support of his team.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.