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NOTE: this post contains spoilers for Winning Time season 2 episode 7, "F**k Boston!”
It's the 1984 NBA finals and the first matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. Each game was a must-watch event for NBA fans as Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) and Larry Bird (Sean Patrick Small) dueled it out. Over the course of seven hard-fought games, Bird trashed his teammates in the press, a minor fight broke out between the teams after a hard foul on Kurt Rambis (Joel Allen) and Boston resorted to dirty tricks to win. But did this all really happen?
Here's what we found out.
Did Larry Bird trash his teammates in the press after Game 3 of the 1984 NBA finals?
After two games, the Lakers and the Celtics were tied with one game each, and Game 3 was back in Los Angeles. With home-court advantage, the Lakers absolutely dominated the Celtics, 137-104. Bird was left fuming.
Following the game, the press was in the visitor's locker room and wasted no time getting Bird's thoughts. Not only did the Celtics legend claim the team was playing like "sissies," but he also alleged the key to beating the Lakers in Game 4 was "12 heart transplants."
When the Lakers defeated the Celtics in Game 3, Bird had plenty of reasons to be upset as a fierce competitor. Not only did the Celtics lose to their rivals, but his nemesis Johnson set an NBA finals record with his 21 assists. According to Sports Illustrated, when Bird was asked about his team's performance, he actually said "We played like sissies." Additionally, when asked what he thought needed to change in order for the Celtics to win the next game, he answered, "12 heart transplants."
Did Kevin McHale clothesline Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA finals?
It was Game 4 and the Lakers were leading in the third quarter. Then in one particular play, Rambis goes up for a layup but is clotheslined by Kevin McHale (Andrew Stephens). After crashing to the floor, Rambis immediately gets up and goes after McHale. From there, both team benches empty and the players get into a scuffle.
Once things started to calm down, McHale attempted to go over to Rambis to apologize, but Bird threatened to break McHale's neck if he did so. In Bird's mind, the Lakers lost their mental edge in the game, and he proved right as the Lakers wound up losing.
McHale clotheslining Rambis is perhaps one of the most egregious fouls in NBA history. You can see for yourself in the clip below.
Now as far as Bird telling McHale not to apologize to Rambis while on the court, we couldn't find any information proving that to be the case. While research shows Bird is the ultimate competitor, nothing we've come across indicates he threatened his teammate to prevent him from apologizing.
With that said, take a look at this video of McHale sharing his feelings on the incident sometime after the end of Game 4 and before the start of Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals.
Did the Celtics turn off the air conditioning during Game 5 of the 1984 NBA finals?
Game 5 in Boston was miserable for the Lakers. Although it was 81 degrees outside, inside the arena it was 94 degrees and the LA team didn't fare well in the extreme heat. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Solomon Hughes) in particular was having a hard time dealing with the conditions and was on the bench with an oxygen mask.
Pat Riley (Adrien Brody) eventually walked up to Abdul-Jabbar and told him to go to the locker room. As the Lakers center made his way off the court, Red Auerbach (Michael Chiklis) checked with a member of the arena janitorial staff to ensure that water to the locker room was turned back on. The employee confirms it was, but just the hot water works, which brings a smile to the faces of both men.
The Lakers lost Game 5.
Looking again to Sports Illustrated, the 1980s Lakers apparently believed the Celtics were always "playing dirty tricks" and that Auerbach was behind all of it. What wasn't touched on in the series was the fact that Riley even believed Auerbach purposefully had the fire alarm at the Lakers' hotel in Boston go off in the middle night prior to one of their matchups.
Specifically looking at Game 5, also known as the "Heat Game," NBC Sports reports that it was an estimated 97 degrees in the Boston arena that day. At that time, Boston was experiencing a heat wave. While Auerbach was accused of pulling his fair share of tricks on the Lakers, he didn't purposefully cut off the air conditioning. As it turns out, in 1984, The Boston Garden (the Celtics arena) did not actually have an air conditioning system. So there was nothing to turn off.
On an interesting note though, Riley may not have blamed Auerbach for the heat on the court, but Sports Illustrated did mention that Riley accused him of turning on the heat in the visitor's locker room.
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