Tommy Heinsohn: I Would Take Bird Over Curry

Tommy Heinsohn knows what it sounds like. He played in the NBA in the 1950s and 60s, won eight titles with the Boston Celtics and then won two more in the 1970s as their head coach. So he’s been around the block. He’s old-school. He’s 81 years old.

Which means, despite saying that Golden State “plays together beautifully,” he’s going to discredit Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, at least a little bit.

“I’m like Oscar Robertson right now,” the Celtics legend said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench, laughing. “Nobody picks them up. They wait for them to get down to the three-point line and then they pick them up. Nobody works them. Jerry West and Oscar Robertson used to have to fight to get every step up the floor. These guys just walk it up the floor, nobody bothers them and they’re not really put to a physical test.”

Curry and Thompson combined for 30 three-pointers and 129 points in Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals, helping the Warriors overcome a 3-1 deficit to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Together, Curry and Thompson put on one of the greatest shooting displays in NBA history.

Heinsohn was asked if Curry or Thompson is a better shooter than Larry Bird.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Heinsohn said. “There was more to Bird than shooting the ball. He was a rebounder, a passer, all-defensive team – all those good things. Plus, he was a supreme competitor. These guys have yet to prove that totally during a career. But they sure have range to their shots. Right now, we’re seeing the apex, I believe, of the three-point shooting rule. (Teams will) start devising defenses to stop that. My feeling is that within the next few years we’re going to go back to big people scoring inside because it’ll be wide open. Everybody will be on the perimeter.”

Bird was a three-time MVP, a three-time NBA champion and a 12-time All-Star. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history.

Heinsohn was asked if he would take Bird at 28 over Curry at 28.

“Absolutely, I would have Larry Bird because of all the things he brought to the game,” Heinsohn said. “He was a big man, he rebounded, he passed the ball, he was the catalyst for other people, he made other people great. He was the epitome of what (Shaquille O’Neal and those guys) were talking about the other night after the game. He made everybody else better. That’s what the two guys on Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) weren’t able to really get through their heads. But the two guys with Golden State, they have a unique game. They’re out there on the perimeter, and one of the things that can get you (in trouble) is that the normal defenses pick these guys up right at the three-point line. These guys have extended the range to where you got to really go out there and that leaves the middle wide open. The way they shoot the ball, as quickly as they shoot the ball, I’ve never seen anybody do that before. (Oklahoma City), I thought, had a better team and a better all-around approach to the game, but they weren’t able to corral themselves and play together as a team for the full 48.”

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