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Larry Bird on Danny Ainge’s willingness to trade Celtics greats, the death of Len Bias and his love for Kobe Bryant

By now, you’ve heard Celtics [1] president Danny Ainge‘s version of the trades [2] Red Auerbach [3] supposedly turned down for Larry Bird [4] and Kevin McHale [5] in the twilight of their careers — and how it relates to the current Big Three’s trade availability.

The story goes that the Pacers offered Chuck Person, Herb Williams and Steve Stipanovich in exchange for Bird while the Mavericks proposed a deal for McHale involving Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins. According to Ainge, Auerbach refused both.

But, in an interview with Grantland’s Bill Simmons on the B.S. Report [6], Bird remembers it differently.

“I was there with Danny and Red and McHale the day we were talking about that,” Bird told Simmons. “The one thing that Danny threw in there was players’€™ names. The whole time I was in Boston I never heard Red mention any other players on other teams. I heard him talking about draft picks, but I never heard anything about, ‘Larry, I can trade you for this, this and this.’ He just never did that.”

At least Ainge and Bird agree on one thing. “Danny did tell Red he should trade us right now,” added Bird, “because we don’€™t have much left in the tank.” Ainge has expressed similar logic for listening to any potential deal for current aging Celtics Paul Pierce [7], Kevin Garnett [8] and Ray Allen [9]. Now the Pacers president, Bird still sides with Auerbach over Ainge (although he might like to benefit from the latter’s willingness to part with players now).

“I would’ve kept them,” said Bird of himself, McHale and Robert Parish [10]. “The one thing about Red was loyalty. That’€™s why I never wanted to leave there, because I always knew he had my back. He cared for me. He wanted me to do well. Obviously, he wanted me to play at a high level.”

Another interesting revelation from Larry Legend: He claims he would have retired due to injuries at the age of 31 in 1988 had Len Bias not died as the result of cocaine use following his No. 2 overall selection in the 1986 NBA draft. With Bias in place as his successor, Bird would have been comfortable passing the torch. The two played against each other at one of Auerbach’s camps when Bias was a sophomore. (“He was incredible,” said Bird.)

“I started having the ankle problems,” added Bird, who played just six games during the 1988-89 season. “They had to detach my Achilles to get these spurs out. I knew I was going to have to miss the whole year. If he was there, I would’ve just shut it down.”

Then again, Larry Legend also admitted, “Kobe [Bryant] was always my favorite since I got out, but LeBron James [11] is by far our best player in this league. I don’€™t really think there’€™s anyone next to him. I think he’€™s there, and then you go down the list.” So, who’s to say Ainge’s version isn’t the correct one after all?