November 17, 1979: Larry Bird makes his first visit to MSG, but he is out-dueled by Michael Ray Richardson.
Larry Bird scored 19 points in his Madison Square Garden (MSG) debut against the New York Knicks in a 113-109 loss. Although drafted 6th overall in the 1978 NBA Draft, Bird spent the 1978-79 season back at Indiana to finish his senior year of college. The NBA later prohibited players from re-establishing college eligibility (known as the Bird Collegiate Rule) if they declare for early eligibility and hire an agent.
Bird faced off against sophomore Micheal Ray Richardson, drafted #4 overall in the 1978 draft. Richardson scored 22 points. Bill Cartwright, a rookie drafted 3rd in the 1979 NBA Draft, scored 20 points and Ray Williams led the team with 35 points.
While this game marked Bird’s first visit to MSG, no rivalry established between both teams during the prime of his career. While Bird and the Boston Celtics won 3 NBA Finals (with 5 appearances) during the 1980s, the Knicks largely avoided them during the 1980s by either missing the playoffs or getting knocked out early. However, both teams met in the 1984 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Celtics scrapped out a victory in 7 games and eventually won the championship.