Larry Bird, referred to as “The Living Legend” by Sports Illustrated, is credited with the resurgence of the National Basketball Association in the 1980s on a national scale as well as in the ’90s on an international scale, by being co-captain of the very first Olympic Dream Team. As the indisputable leader of the great Boston Celtics teams, he forged a much storied rivalry with Magic Johnson and his LA Lakers, repeatedly drawing record-breaking national TV audiences with the all-time classic battles on the court.
Larry Bird brought his incomparable talents and instinctual leadership abilities to Boston in 1979 after a stellar collegiate career at Indiana State University, where he led the ISU Sycamores to a 55-1 recordBhis only loss was in his senior year to Michigan State. That NCAA game remains the highest viewing rating in NCAA tournament history. Larry is one of the very few athletes who turned away the riches of the NBA and completed his senior year at Indiana State out of loyalty to his college teammates and to fulfill a promise he had made to his grandmother to receive a college degree.
Once Larry Bird did arrive in Boston, his enormous impact was immediately felt by all. Every home game Larry Bird played in was a sell-out throughout his career. In his rookie year, he sparked the Celtics to a 32 win improvement from the previous seasonBthe greatest one-season turnaround in league history at that point. In 1986, Larry Bird was chosen as the Sporting News Man of the Year, the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, and the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in both the regular season and playoffs. In that same year, he won the long distance (three point) at the All-Star Weekend, and tallied a triple-double in Boston’s Game Six clincher over the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.
Larry Bird has, by far, one of the most impressive resumes in professional basketball annals: Rookie of the Year in ’79-’80 12 All-Star Game selections (including MVP once) 10 Season All-NBA Teams three All-Defensive Teams three Regular Season MVP’s and two Playoff MVP’s. He was also the primary component in the Boston Celtics’ NBA Championship titles in 1981, 1984, and 1986. During his career, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine 11 times, including the cover of the special “40 For the Ages” commemorative issue, featuring the best 40 athletes in the last 40 years.
Larry Bird also possesses many of his team’s records, including the most points ever scored by a Celtic in one game, scoring 60 points in a spectacular shootout with Dominique Wilkins and the Atlanta Hawks. In 1986-87, Larry became the first player in the NBA chronicles to shoot 50% from the field and 90% from the free throw line in the same season. Amazingly, he accomplished the same magnificent deed the following year as well. Whether it was connecting time after time on buzzer-beaters, hitting 78 straight free throws, amazing all by stealing as inbounds pass of Isiah Thomas, or reappearing from the locker room after a serious fall to the floor in the deciding game of a playoff series, Bird dazzled all and never gave less than 110%.
Larry Bird not only helped define basketball in the ’80s and the ’90s, but he also helped a fledgling sports association explode into a powerful and profitable entertainment entity. A great leaper? No. Fastest player on the court? No. Bird does, however, possess the attributes of a winner: heart, desire, supreme effort at all times and a superior working knowledge of the intricacies of the game. Hall of Famer and Former General Manager of the Lakers Jerry West said of Bird‘s 36-point, 21-rebound effort against his team: “Larry was two thoughts ahead of everyone else on the floor”. A true leader, the Celtics never suffered a losing month during the regular season with Bird in the starting rotation.
Larry‘s inspiring accomplishments, dedication to excellence and personal drive were featured prominently in the television programming presented by the NBA in their 50th Anniversary celebration during the ’96-’97 basketball season. This programming honored Larry as one of the top 50 NBA players in the history of the game. He received the highest honor possible in his profession when he was enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on October 2, 1998. He was also inducted into the Indiana State University Hall of Fame in August of 1999, and in that same month he was honored as an Indiana Living Legend by the Indiana Historical Society.
One of the most popular athletes ever, nationally and internationally, Larry‘s fans range from children to adults and grandparents alike. Larry‘s fans revere him for his intense work ethic (as evidenced by two hours of free throw practice before every school day began back in Indiana), his obvious desire to do his best at all times and contribute within the team, and his ability to be a winner every time out. It is this exceptionally strong drive that led to the title selection of his best-selling autobiography (14 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and still selling worldwide), Drive. Additionally, Larry and co-author Jackie MacMullan have written a book on Larry‘s thoughts on basketball called Bird Watching: On Playing and Coaching The Game I Love (Warner Bros., 1999).
Larry Bird has worked as hard off the court as on, becoming a highly desirable corporate and commercial spokesman for a selected number of major business and brand names, including: McDonald’s, H.J. Heinz, Microsoft, Gatorade, Hewlett Packard, Nestle, Kraft, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Pepsi/Mountain Dew. And so on. He has also worked on behalf of numerous charities, including the Boys and Girls Club of Terre Haute, IN and the Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club in Boston. Additionally, Larry Bird requested that all of the proceeds from his incredibly successful retirement ceremony held at the Boston Garden in 1992 be shared among 25 Boston charities, thus generating well over a million dollars in revenues to be distributed among them.
In the spring of 1997, Larry Bird accepted the position of Head Coach of the Indiana Pacers Basketball Club. There, he successfully utilized his leadership qualities and areas of expertise to lead the Pacers to their best regular season record, and to push the world champion Chicago Bulls to their most difficult 7 game series in the ’97 Eastern Conference Finals. Once again, Larry Bird demonstrated champion instincts and performed at a high level on TV, radio and print media outlets. He earned not only the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star Team Coach honors, but also the NBA’s highest coaching honor, the NBA Coach of the Year in his Rookie season as the Pacers’ Head Coach. On July 13, 1998, Larry was also named Executive Vice President of the Indiana Pacers Basketball Club, and shortly thereafter he was selected as one of ESPN’s Top 50 Athletes of the Century. Under Larry’s leadership role with the Pacers, he met with the Indianapolis City Council to assist in the final negotiations for the bonding and tax matters related with construction of the finest state-of-the-art basketball arena in the USBConseco Fieldhouse. Larry‘s deep personal commitment to bettering his players brought great dividends to the franchise and its fans, as Larry led the Pacers to a place they had never been before in his third and final year of coaching the 2000 NBA Championship finals against the LA Lakers. Once again, Larry Bird left is indelible mark of excellence on an organization.
Larry Bird is happily married and lives with his family in Naples, FL and French Lick, IN. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family and fishing, playing golf and tennis, and attending to his various business interests.