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Why Larry Bird was a better scorer than Paul Pierce

Chuck - Red's Army February 9, 2012 Uncategorized 23 Comments

BirdPierce

Who is the better scorer, Larry Bird or Paul Pierce?

There's been a big push lately to give that nod to Paul Pierce. Not just for passing Bird as the Celtics #2 all-time scorer, but for his versatility. The Truth has a great mid-range game (hello, right elbow jumper). He can shoot the three ball. He can also attack the basket and get to the rim. 

Larry Bird was a phenomenal shooter. One of the best of all time. His mid-range game involved backing down an opponent and shooting the fade-away. Bird was not a slasher. Putting the ball on the floor and getting to the hoop was not a strength. 

What's a debate without statistics? Let's look at points per game, shooting percentage and individual scoring:

Bird Pierce
PPG 24.3 22.1
FG% 49.6 44.8
60 points 1 0
50 points 3 1
40 points 43 18

With Bird having so many 40+ games, yet a 24.3 ppg career average, we wondered if he was prone to more bad games.

Bird Pierce
15 points or less 62 202
10 points or less 16 72

I'm not a statistics expert, but I believe these numbers disprove that argument.

Even prior to this little statistical experiment, I thought Bird was the better scorer. He was more explosive than Pierce. He would reach that zone more often than Pierce.

Pierce has more ways to score, but Bird is the better scorer. Make sense?

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  • Danno

    Bird never played on a single Celtics team who were less than a bona-fide Championship contender
    Pierce spent the first 10 years of his career playing on teams that were completely awful.
    It’s a lot easier to have great stats when you have great teammates.

  • aaron

    Until PP starts shooting every shot lefthanded during a game for fun and making them, Bird will always be the best Celtics scorer.

  • KY Celts fan

    I disagree. For a scorer, its much easier to put up big numbers when you have bad teammates. Because then, the ball is always in your hands and you’re expected to be the one to win all the games. There is a reason why the Big Three all averaged less PPG when they came together. And it’s no coincidence that Kobe had his 81 pt. game when he was playing with the worst team of his career.

  • Lee in Oregon

    well said Aaron!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/vandelay28 Lakerhater

    I love PP and what he’s done for the Celtics, but it will always be Bird and Havilcek.

  • Danno

    except Antoine Walker was talking 75% of the shots for the whole teamfor those first 8 years. LOL.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    This point isn’t even remotely disputable.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    It’s about like disputing that Magic Johnson was a better closer than Rajon Rondo.

  • djisinthehall

    Its really not even close. Its Larry all day every day. Its no disrespect to Paul. We are talking Larry Legend.

  • Danno

    Except that Rajon Rondo will never, EVER, be in the same conversation as Magic, whereas Pierce is and belongs in the conversation with Bird.
    Bird was more Clutch (probably moreso than anyone who ever played the game) and his percentage of low scoring games were way better than Pierce. Way better than everyone of his era, to boot.
    But really, if you look at what they both did, minus the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia, and hopefully minus the deep seated Boston “Larry’s Bettah!!!” quasi-xenophobic nonsense, you will see that Pierce is right there. Sure, he’s a step or two behind Bird still, but not anywhere near as much as people want to make it out to be.
    Nobody is saying Pierce is better.
    I bet things would have been a hell of a lot different if Pierce had the benefit of playing with KG and Ray since say, 2004, as opposed to them arriving in 2008.
    I also think Paul would have had way more points had his career started in 1978 as opposed to 1998 as well. Nobody played defense back then. Most games averaged 100+ points on both sides of the court.

  • Meang

    Bird came on in 1979 and transformed the Celtics from 29-53 to 61-21 for the biggest turn around in NBA history! Larry Legend would of had much greater statistics if not for a debilitating back injury sustained early in his career. He wasn’t just a great scorer but he rebounded, passed like a wizard, and defended well early in his career. He is easily the greatest scorer in Celtics history and one of the top five in the history of the NBA.

  • Jerry Sondler

    Larry Bird is the greatest forward in NBA history. Period. Next topic.
    As a rookie, Bird led the Celtics to a 32 game improvement in wins…and he was the only significant difference in those two!rosters

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011571d4119a970b Lex

    I will concede some ground, minimal as it may be.
    Old Paul Pierce is a much better score than Old Larry Bird.
    Paul Pierce’s body has held up well.
    Larry Bird’s?
    Not so much.
    But if we compare the two in their primes.
    Larry could have dropped 50 on any given night without anyone really noticing.
    Paul Pierce really needed to have it going to have a chance at 50, and, once he did, still would have charged and turned the ball over at a high rate on his way to scoring 50 more than once a year.
    Again, for anyone who saw them both play, there is no debate.

  • DubbStep

    If the argument is made that “Pierce has more ways to score,” then doesn’t that say that Pierce is a better scorer? I think the most effective scorers can do it a number of ways and keep their defender guessing with their wide array of moves. Larry was a better shooter, no doubt, his shooting was ridiculous. He was efficient. Pierce was effective in every way to score. That’s why I feel like Pierce as a scorer, Larry as a shooter.

  • Celticsfan336

    I give the nod to Bird. He could shoot with either hand, and not just layups. I believe if Bird had been a shoot first player like Jordan or Bryant, he would have averaged about 30ppg during his prime. Pierce is a great player, but for the combination of guts, determination, effort and talent, Bird is unbeatable.

  • James Eisenman

    Bird was the better offensive player. He shot nearly 50%. Pierce is like 45%. I love PP, but hands down, Bird. And Bird did his scoring with the best Celtics’ teams ever. I haven’t looked at the stats but Pierce is not averaging nearly as much since the Big 3 was put together as he did when it was just him and Antoine and the midgets. Also, where did this idea come from that they didn’t play defense in the 80’s? I guarantee you, it didn’t come from anyone who actually watched basketball in the 1980’s. They scored more points because teams ran more – all the time, in fact. Remember, Red invented the fast break? This year, when the season was postponed, I watched Game 4 of the 1984 Lakers/Celtics series. It was mind blowing. I forgot how good these teams actually were. They WERE playing great defense but these players were so damned unstoppable that they put it in over the great defense anyway. Nowadays, with the trapping zones, the defense is not nearly as good. If you move the ball around and don’t get caught up in the trap, someone is almost always open for a 3. That rarely happened back in the day. Bird was even a better scorer than Havlicek and he’s my all-time favorite. I love PP but he does have his off nights, where he can’t hit the broad side of a barn door. Bird rarely did. His off nights would be when someone would deny him possessions and he just shot less. And who but Larry Bird, would get the ball in the closing minutes, look up at the 8-point Celtics’ lead, then purposely step back behind the 3-point line to stick the dagger in the other team and break their spirit? Austin Rivers!!! LOL

  • http://profile.typepad.com/the_bantam the_bantam

    Ah another cross-generation debate. In his prime, Bird was arguably the best scorer of his time. PP would be on the fringe of that discussion of the 00s in my humble opinion. Bird did have infinitely better players setting picks and drawing defenders off of him for the majority of his career.
    PP has had a better career and is a more complete all-around player, (four blocks in his first game as a rookie?). Not better or worse, just different.

  • James Eisenman

    Yes, but you’re ignoring the fact that, in the first 10 years, Bird had Parish, Mchale, DJ, Tiny, Danny, Cedric, etc. all averaging double figures. Anyone can set a pick. PP has become an excellent defender, but we’re talking scorer here. And Bird was pretty damned good on defense in his prime. But PP is NOT a better all around player. Bird shot a much better percentage from the field, got more assists (by far, and he played forward his whole career), got more rebounds (more than 4 more a game) more blocks, more steals, shot nearly 10% better from the free throw line and a little better from the 3. So, what are you talking about? You never really saw Bird play, right? This is not to denigrate PP. But come on.

  • James Eisenman

    And by the way, no one EVER, EVER, EVER left Larry Bird alone to go guard someone else….and lived to talk about it. LOL

  • http://profile.typepad.com/buffywashington Buffy Washington

    Are we really debating this? I love Pierce but Bird is in the argument with the best players (and scorers) to ever lace them up. Pierce is not.

  • Bill Burke celtic fan 62 years

    Scoring, who would I pick first…..Larry Bird,,,,plus Larry could do it all. Great passer, Could rebound well, Had the nack of seeing the whole court and who was where, total team player,,,,uncanny,,,Had the smoothest release on his shot.This is why the Larry Bird. Magic Johnson era made basketball come to a new level . Yes he had good players with him,,,,but he made the team a TEAM

  • Alex

    why does it go from 40points to 15 or less points. is there a reason we can’t see the 30s?

  • Ludovicus

    Useless, and irrelevant comparison player position-wise. Why is this even a web page?!?!?!