Boston Celtics: Isiah Thomas
I still cringe when I hear Johnny Most’s gravelly voice scream, “Now there’s a steal by Bird!” It’s been 25 years, but it still hurts.
Larry Bird’s steal of Isiah Thomas’ inbounds pass in 1987 is the ultimate buzzkill for a Detroit sports fan. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and it still upsets me.
The Pistons had lost to the Celtics in the 1985 playoffs but had a chance to go up 3-2 in the 1987 Eastern Conference finals.
Isiah already was a great player in his own right. The six-time All-Star (and three-time All-NBA first-teamer) was in the prime of his career and had built a reputation for being clutch. In the 1984 playoffs, Zeke poured in a remarkable 16 points in 94 seconds of a game to force overtime against the Knicks.
With 5 seconds left, there he was, the team’s best player, on the most famous floor in the sport, with a chance to steal the game. He saw Bill Laimbeer -- his friend who co-captained the Bad Boys ship -- in the backcourt. One of the great passers in the history of the NBA, a man who had averaged 13.9 assists per game two years prior, threw a soft pass.
Bird not only made the steal, but threw a perfect pass to Dennis Johnson, who finished with the reverse.
Two and a half decades later, I can watch the “underneath to DJ, he lays it in” part. For many years, I couldn’t watch it. But with some perspective and time, that seminal play is not only one of the Zapruder film clips of the NBA, but also meaningful for what it stood for.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, somebody is going to be better than you.
Pierce could climb higher quickly, as he sits 7 points behind Chet Walker and 16 points shy of Scottie Pippen. If he stays healthy, Pierce will be knocking on the door of the top 30 by season's end.
For Pierce, 32 and in his 12th season, passing Thomas, who was voted one of the NBA's top 50 players of all time, is significant.
"I think it's great," said Pierce. "It shows the longevity I've had in this league, staying healthy. To pass one of the greats like Isiah, it's just another accomplishment I'm proud of. I don't take it for granted. The game is bigger than that. It's an honor to be up there with those guys."
Kevin Garnett (21,439 points) is less than 150 points away from cracking the top 25 for all-time scorers. If he remains healthy this season, he'll likely vault a pair of former Celtics in Larry Bird (24th at 21,791 points) and Gary Payton (23rd at 21,813 points).
Ray Allen (19,843 points) sits at No. 33 overall. Only three active players reside ahead of Garnett and Allen: Shaquille O'Neal (5th, 27,721), Kobe Bryant (16th, 24,161) and Allen Iverson (17th, 24,020).
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points. Check out the entire top 25.
Play Podcast Patriots CB Kyle Arrington talks about recovering the onside kick in the victory over the Browns, his team's comeback wins, New England's reaction to Rob Gronkowski's injury and more.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer dishes on the impact of Rob Gronkowski's injury, Tony Romo's style of play, Chip Kelly's coaching, Robert Griffin III's struggles and more.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck talks about the quality of officiating, Wes Welker's health, Rob Gronkowski's injury, the state of the Redskins and more.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski discusses how Rob Gronkowski's injury could affect the Patriots' playoff success, the Eagles' offense, Peyton Manning's throwing style and more.
Play Podcast Mike Greenberg and Cris Carter cover Week 14 of the NFL season, including Rob Gronkowski's injury, Panthers-Saints, Peyton Manning's big day, the drama in Washington and more.
Play Podcast Two-time World Series champion Johnny Damon dishes on Jacoby Ellsbury's decision to sign with the Yankees, what moving from Boston to New York is like and more.