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Dancin’ Barry Has the Right Number: Bird Is the Word

Dancin’ Barry made his regular Forum appearance Wednesday night with 33 seconds left on the clock, time out, and the Celtics leading, 105-103.

The music to which Barry chose to boogey this particular night was the immortal 1960s hit by the Rivingtons, “The Bird is the Word.”

For the record:

12:00 AM, Jun. 07, 1985 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 7, 1985 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 3 Column 1 Sports Desk 3 inches; 76 words Type of Material: Correction
The song Dancing Barry danced to Wednesday night at the Laker-Celtic game at the Forum was “Papa Ooh Mow Mow,” not “The Bird is the Word,” as Times columnist Scott Ostler wrote Thursday.
So, Dancing Barry was not dancing a tribute to Boston Celtics star Larry Bird, after all.
Both songs were recorded by the Rivingtons. Then later, there was a song that combined “Papa Ooh Mow Mow” and “The Bird is the Word.” That song, “Surfin’ Bird,” was recorded by The Trashmen in 1963, causing the Rivingtons to file suit and prompting this most recent confusion.

Oh, Barry, Barry, Barry!

Your Lakers are about to get buried by the Celtics and you are dancing a tribute to that team’s star, their savior, Larry Bird?

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What will you dance to for an encore? “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”?

But Barry was right. Wednesday night, the Bird was the word.

Papa ooh mow mow.

Bird took over the game in the fourth quarter. He made two huge steals, contributed to at least one other steal, blocked a shot, scored 10 points and fed Dennis Johnson with a nice pass so D.J. could bang home the winning jump shot as time ran out.

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When the Lakers threatened to run away early in the fourth quarter, building a seven-point lead, Bird took over the game.

Then, after his shower, he neatly summed up the series situation, for the benefit of anyone who wasn’t sure.

“The Celtics are gonna live and die with the way I play,” Bird said. “If I make mistakes or miss the shots, we’re gonna lose.

“If we win the championship, I’m gonna be the one to help the Celtics do it.”

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This has been Bird’s greatest season. He won a second NBA MVP trophy, to put up there on top of his refrigerator in the basement apartment of his mom’s home in French Lick, Indiana.

Yes, this season, the Bird was the word.

But going into this game, Bird had been just another struggling Celtic. The struggle continued in the first half Wednesday. He shot 3 for 6, but Bird has to take more than six shots a half.

What happened in that second half? “In the fourth quarter, the shots just started to go in,” Bird said. “I was pretty pleased with the way I was playing defense in the fourth quarter. I was more surprised that my defense came around than my offense.

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“I don’t know if my touch is there, but my defense, I was very proud of it. I’m pretty pleased with the way I played the second half.

“From here on out, I anticipate playing a lot better.”

Swell news for the Lakers, certainly.

Bird’s un-Birdlike play in the first three games of the series was a major blessing to the Lakers.

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Now, Bird seems to have found a groove.

“In the second half,” he said, “I was just shootin’ it before I was thinkin’ about passin’. Sometimes I look for the pass first.”

He did, however, make the biggest pass of the night, to Dennis Johnson.

“I would’ve taken the shot, if I could’ve run the clock down, but I seen Worthy and another guy come at me. I was counting down (the seconds) in my head. When D.J. got it, when it hit his hands, it clicked down from three (seconds) to two.”

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When the Man Upstairs passed out basketball smarts, Bird elbowed his way to the front and scooped up a whole headful.

Or is it simple good fortune that Bird has made a career out of being in the right place at the right time?

Like with 4:50 left in the game, when he was guarding Magic Johnson at the top of the key and Magic lobbed the ball into Bird’s hands.

The Celtics called time out, and then Bird hit a jump shot for a three-point Celtic lead.

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“Magic don’t make mistakes like that too often,” Bird said. “He started to pass, then changed his mind, and the ball slipped out of his hands. I was getting ready to turn around and shoot it for him.”

Bird, of course, is the living symbol of the Celtics, especially in this series. It’s grit vs. glamour, and Bird is the true grit. Although it must be told that he is not the hick he once was.

Bird’s apres- game outfit Wednesday, for instance, included a gold Boy Scout-style belt with a shiny buckle bearing the signature of Pierre Cardin.

Not that he’s a sissy. He plays the game with bone chips floating around his right elbow and with a right index finger that is bent and swollen so it resembles a nice little piece of driftwood.

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Ask him about these things, and he snaps, “I feel good. I feel good, for the last month and a half, it’s the same old story. I feel great.”

Same old story.

Just outside the Celtics’ locker room about that time, Tom Selleck was posing for a picture with the Laker Girls. Somewhere, Dancin’ Barry was showing off his new tuxedo.

Inside the locker room, inside both locker rooms, nobody had to say anything, but everyone had to know . . .

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The Bird is the word.

Papa ooh mow mow.


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