HH Tournament: (1) Larry Bird vs (8) Tom Sanders

Feb 9, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon and team president Larry Bird (right) watch the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 9, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon and team president Larry Bird (right) watch the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Larry Bird and Tom Sanders is the next matchup in the Hardwood Houdini Tournament

Bob Cousy advanced to the second round over Dennis Johnson in the final matchup of Side A. Cousy will take on Kevin McHale in the Elite Eight. The first matchup of Round Two on Side B is between Larry Bird and Tom Sanders, the winner moving to the Elite Eight.

Don’t forget that this is based solely off their playing careers with the Boston Celtics. Any coaching or front office experience shouldn’t be taken into account, neither should their collegiate careers or any other NBA teams they may have played for.

Larry Bird – 1998 Hall of Fame Inductee

24.3 PPG, 10 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG

13 Seasons with Boston, 3x Champion, 12x All-Star, Rookie of the Year, 3x MVP, #33 Retired by Celtics

Larry Bird sported one of the most complete games in NBA history. Even in his skill set that featured everything you need to be a great all-around player, his outside shooting set him apart even farther from other players in his era.

Today, you need to be able to shoot from behind the arc if you’re a wing player, and even power forwards need to be able to stretch the floor. Offenses rely on heavy outside shooting attacks, focused around shooting as many threes as you can. Before Steph Curry was making unprecedented amounts of threes, Larry Bird was seen as the best three-point shooter to many.

Before winning the first ever three-point contest in 1986, Bird famously walked into the locker room before the competition and asked everyone, “Whose playing for second?” Bird, just like many in his era, was a great trash talker, and he backed it up as well as anyone.

He showcased his outside shooting in the 1986 three-point contest, and also led the league in threes made two straight seasons (1985-87). Back then it took just 82 and 90 made threes to lead the league, although Bird was one of the first great players to implement the three-point shot into his game.

Bird shot 37.6 percent from three during his career, including six seasons in which he shot over 40 percent. The most threes Bird ever attempted in a season was 237, but there’s no doubting that he’s one of the best pure shooters the game has ever seen. As his career went on, and the three-point shot became a bigger part of his game, Bird only became a better shooter.

Larry Bird still ranks fourth all-time in threes made and three-point attempts in Celtics history.

Bird isn’t mentioned among the Ray Allens and Steph Currys, but he was a great shooter in his own right. It wasn’t an era where there was a heavy focus on outside shooting, therefore Bird’s 649 threes made dwindle in comparison to even mediocre three-point shooters. When it comes down to it, Bird has one of the best all-around games in NBA history but his shooting stands out over everything.

Tom Sanders – 2011 Hall of Fame Inductee

9.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG

13 Seasons with Boston, 8x Champion, #16 Retired by Celtics

Tom Sanders won eight titles in 13 years, and while he didn’t stuff the stat sheet Sanders was a key part to all eight titles. Sanders never averaged a double-double and 12.6 points per game was his career-high. He was a solid defensive player, but he was always one of the most durable players in the league.

Sanders never played heavy minutes, however he did play at least 25 minutes per game eight times. Even though he only played 24.2 minutes per night over his career, Sanders rarely missed a game. He led the league in games played four times, including in 1964-65 when he averaged a career-high 30.7 minutes per game.

Overall, Tom Sanders finished top-ten in games played seven times during his career.

Not to mention that Sanders averaged at least 29 minutes per game in five consecutive postseason runs (1961-1966) and never missed a game. It was the most minutes he saw in his career, and Sanders played in all 66 postseason games. The Celtics put together five title runs during that span, including two runs in which Sanders averaged 13.3 and 13.5 points per game.

Sticking with the team for his whole career was impressive in its own right. Although, staying healthy at the right time and playing heavy minutes off the bench each playoff run shows the type of reliable player he was on and off the court.

Tom Sanders still ranks seventh all-time in franchise history with 917 games played. He trails Bob Cousy by just one game.

Sanders was never the most talented and didn’t put up huge numbers, however he was always available and ready to play. Players didn’t move teams as often during his era, although the fact that he was healthy for each of their playoff runs is impressive. Maybe not the most important part of their championship runs, but Sanders was an integral bench piece who was always ready to play every night.

Don’t forget to vote on Twitter @HoudiniCeltics! The poll is up for 20 hours. Comments on here don’t count as votes, only the poll on Twitter will be looked at to determine who goes on to the Elite Eight.

Next: Boston Celtics Waive John Holland

Also, look at tomorrow’s match-up to see the results from today’s showdown.