Larry Bird

Larry Legend

Larry Joe Bird (born December 7, 1956) is an American retired professional basketball player who played for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Since retiring as a player, he has been a mainstay in the Indiana Pacers organization, currently serving as team president. Drafted into the NBA sixth overall by the Boston Celtics in 1978, Bird started at small forward and power forward for thirteen seasons, spearheading one of the NBA's most formidable frontcourts that included center Robert Parish and forward Kevin McHale. Bird was a 12-time NBA All-Star and was named the league's Most Valuable Player (MVP) three consecutive times (1984–1986). He played his entire professional career for Boston, winning three NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVP awards.

He was a member of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team ("The Dream Team") that won the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Bird was voted to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team[1] in 1996 and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame[2] in 1998 (and was inducted again 2010 as a member of the "Dream Team").

He served as head coach of the Indiana Pacers from 1997 to 2000. In 2003, he assumed the role of president of basketball operations for the Pacers, holding the position until retiring in 2012.[3] After a year away from the position, he announced he would return to the Pacers as president of basketball operations in 2013.[4] In addition to being part of the 50–40–90 club, he is the only person in NBA history to be named Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.

Early life

Bird was born in West Baden, Indiana to Georgia (née Kerns) and Claude Joseph "Joe" Bird.[6] He was raised in nearby French Lick, where his mother worked two jobs to support Larry and his five siblings.[7] Bird has said that being poor as a child still motivates him "to this day".[8] Georgia and Joe divorced when Larry was in high school, and Joe committed suicide about a year later.[9] Larry used basketball as an escape from his family troubles, starring for Springs Valley High School and averaging 31 points, 21 rebounds, and 4 assists as a senior on his way to becoming the school's all-time scoring leader.[6][10]

College career

Bird received a scholarship to play college basketball for the Indiana Hoosiers in 1974.[11] After less than a month on campus, he dropped out of school, finding the adjustment between his small hometown and the large student population of Bloomington to be overwhelming.[6] He returned to French Lick, enrolling at Northwood Institute in nearby West Baden and working municipal jobs for a year before enrolling at Indiana State University in 1975.[12][13][14] He had a successful three-year career with the Sycamores, helping them reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history and leading them to the championship game against Michigan State in 1979.[15][16] Indiana State would lose the game 75–64, with Bird scoring 19 points but making only 7 of 21 shots for 33.3 percent shooting rate.[6] The game achieved the highest ever rating for a college basketball game in large part because of the match-up between Bird and Spartans' point guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson,[7] a rivalry that lasted throughout their professional careers. Despite failing to win the championship, Bird earned a slew of year-end awards and honors for his outstanding play, including the Naismith College Player of the Year Award.[16] For his college career, he averaged 30.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game,[17] leading the Sycamores to an 81–13 record during his tenure.[16]

Joining the Celtics

Bird was selected by the Boston Celtics with the sixth overall pick in the 1978 NBA draft.[17] He did not sign with the Celtics immediately; instead, he played out his final season at Indiana State and then inked a five-year, $3.25 million contract with the team, making him the highest paid rookie in league history at the time.[10][18] Shortly afterwards, NBA draft eligibility rules were changed to prevent teams from drafting players before they were ready to sign, a rule known as the Bird Collegiate Rule.[18]

Early success (1979–83)

Bird immediately transformed the Celtics into a title contender, helping them improve their win total by 32 games from the year before he was drafted and finish first in the Eastern Conference.[19][20] With averages of 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game for the season, he was selected to the All-Star Team and named Rookie of the Year.[17] In the Conference Finals, Boston was eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers.[20]

Before the 1980–81 season, the Celtics selected forward Kevin McHale in the draft and acquired center Robert Parish from the Golden State Warriors,[21][22] forming a Hall of Fame trio for years to come. Behind Bird's leadership and Boston's upgraded roster, the Celtics again advanced to the Conference Finals for a rematch with the 76ers.[23] Boston fell behind 3–1 to start the series but won the next three games to advance to the Finals against the Houston Rockets,[24] winning in six games and earning Bird his first championship.[23] He averaged 21.9 points, 14 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 2.3 steals per game for the postseason and 15.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 7 assists per game for the Finals but lost out on the Finals MVP Award to teammate Cedric Maxwell.[17][25]

At the 1982 All-Star Game, Bird scored 19 points en route to winning the All-Star Game MVP Award.[26] At the conclusion of the season, he earned his first All-Defensive Team selection.[17] He eventually finished runner-up in Most Valuable Player Award voting to Moses Malone.[26] In the Conference Finals, the Celtics faced the 76ers for the third consecutive year, losing in seven games.[27] Boston's misfortunes continued into the next season, with Bird again finishing second in MVP voting to Malone and the team losing in the Conference Semifinals to the Milwaukee Bucks.[26][28]