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November 5, 2013

Bird statue to be unveiled in Terre Haute

(Continued)

For the record, Boston emerged victorious 118-116.

Ainge, who played for the Celtics in that game, hasn¹t forgotten it either.

"Larry wasn't feeling great at that time in his career," Ainge pointed out. "His back and his Achilles tendons were bothering him.

"Larry used to make a living off what we referred to as 'a step-back jumpshot.' He would dribble the ball toward the basket, then jump backward and shoot a fadeaway. It was a patented move of Larry's that he was able to do consistently [before his injuries]. But that became a little more challenging for him to do because his Achilles tendons were sore and he didnt have the same lift and balance on his shot.

"So I remember Larry working on a new shot [in early 1988], like a jump hook from about 12 or 15 feet. He was working on it before that game, then he implemented it in that game. I always found that fascinating. Here's a guy — he wasn't able to do what he normally does — who finds another way to do something else and be equally effective. Larry was far from 100 percent physically for that game. So for him to still do what he did was incredible."

Ainge said he wasn't surprised that this epic showdown happened the way it did.

"They were two of the greatest offensive players in the NBA at that time," he emphasized. "Dominique did everything he could that night."

Bird: 'brilliant,' 'very kind¹

Walton said Bird lived for moments such as the one against Atlanta in 1988 — on and off the court.

"Larry, in life, is just like how he was on the court — very serious about getting the job done but always wanting to have fun along the way," Walton explained. "As a player, Larry was always 20 moves ahead of everybody else. He was like a brilliant chess player. He was [Garry] Kasparov. He was [Bobby] Fischer. Larry had that [mental element to his game]. But it was not just in basketball; it was in life as well. He had a sense of anticipation, a sense of always knowing what was going to happen before anybody else did."

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