NBA Tuesday is cruising through the 1980s, one season at a time, and now we have reached 1986. This was the final Boston Celtics championship for 22 seasons, actually, as the dynasty of Red Auerbach finally came to an end—although this team was pretty impressive, overall. But still, the year remains the end of an era that started three decades prior. It’s something to note before moving on to the awards …
Remember also to check out the first miniseries entry on this year for context, because knowledge is power.
1986 NBA FINALS MVP: Larry Bird, SF, Boston (original, confirmed)
The Celtics dropped the Houston Rockets in 6 games, with the key victory coming by 3 points in Game 4 on the road. After that, it was just a matter of time before Boston won another title. Small forward Larry Bird won the MVP vote, and we’re going to confirm this rather readily, as he came just a smidge away from posting a triple double in the finals: 24.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 9.5 apg, and 2.7 spg.
Power forward Kevin McHale led the Celtics in scoring (25.7 ppg), but Bird topped his team in rebounds, assists, and steals. He also played 44.8 mpg during the series, which was 2 minutes more per game than the next player on the Boston roster. Bird was 29 years old, and he was at the height of his powers before injuries started creeping in on his career and began diminishing his effectiveness.
1986 NBA DPOY: Alvin Robertson, SG, San Antonio (original); Charles Barkley, PF, Philadelphia (revised)
This vote went to San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Alvin Robertson (4.56 DWS), but it was Bird who topped the NBA in Defensive Win Shares (6.17). Our only other worthwhile candidate here was Philadelphia 76ers power forward Charles Barkley (5.46). We can’t give the award to Robertson with a DWS mark so low, so it’s going to be either Barkley or Bird.
It doesn’t seem fair to penalize Bird for his team’s overall prowess, but the Celtics did win 67 games—while the 76ers only won 54 games, inherently making Barkley more valuable defensively than Bird. Barkley’s statistics: 12.8 rpg (8.4 on the defensive end), 2.2 spg, and 1.6 bpg. Add it up, and that’s 12.2 opponent possessions per game that the Round Mound of Rebound ended on his own at age 22.