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Why Book Larry Bird?
Beginning his storied career at Springs Valley High School, Indiana, Larry graduated in 1974 as the school’s leading scorer, despite enduring a broken ankle during his sophomore year. During his recovery, Larry did not sit idle; he instead focused on practicing his shooting every day. This inimitable drive and determination to excel became Larry’s calling card and was instilled in him most notably by his parents, Joe and Georgia Bird, and Coach Jim Jones as well as by his other early coaches Gary Holland, Bob King and Bill Hodges. Larry Bird, referred to as “The Living Legend” by Sports Illustrated, is credited with the resurgence of the National Basketball Association in the 1980’s on a national scale and on an international scale in the 90’s by co-captaining the very first professional Olympic Dream Team. As the indisputable leader of the great Boston Celtics teams, he forged a much storied rivalry with Magic Johnson and his Los Angeles Lakers which repeatedly drew record breaking national television audiences and all time classic battles on the court. Larry brought from the small town of French Lick, Indiana 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 record with his only loss in his senior year to Michigan State. That NCAA game remains the highest viewing rating in NCAA tournament history and led to the NCAA’s first television contracts. Larry is one of the very few athletes who turned away the riches of the NBA and completed his senior year at Indiana State University out of loyalty to his college teammates and to fulfill a promise he had made to his grandmother to earn and receive a college degree.
However, once Larry did arrive in Boston, his enormous impact was immediately felt by all. Every home game that Larry played in was a sell-out throughout his career and in his rookie year he sparked the Celtics to a 32 wins improvement from the previous season, the greatest one-season turnaround in league history at that point. Larry has, by far, one of the most impressive resumes in professional basketball and sports annals: Rookie of the Year in 79-80; Twelve All-Star Game selections (including MVP once); Ten All-NBA Teams; Three All-Defensive Teams; Three Regular Season MVP’s (only other two NBA players to do this in the history of the sport were Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain); and two playoff MVP’s. He was the primary component in the Boston Celtics’ NBA World Championship titles in 1981, 1984, and 1986.
In 1986, Larry was chosen as The Sporting News Man of the Year; the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, NBA Most Valuable Player in both the regular season and playoffs, won the long distance (three point) contest at the All-Star Weekend, and tallied a triple-double in Boston’s Game Six clincher over the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals. During his career, Larry was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine eleven times, including the cover of the special “40 For The Ages” commemorative issue featuring the best 40 athletes in the last 40 years.
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, which is aired continuously on television outlets to this day. 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, and, he accomplished the magnificent deed a second time the following season. Whether it was connecting time after time on buzzer-beaters, hitting 78 straight free throws, amazing all by stealing an inbounds pass of Isaiah 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 80’s and the 90’s, but he also helped a fledgling sports association known as the National Basketball Association (NBA) explode into a powerful and profitable global 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, 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 celebrations occurring in the 96-97 basketball season, honoring Larry as one of the top 50 NBA players in the history of the game.
Larry received the highest honor possible in his profession when he was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on October 2, 1998 and he also received the very special honor of being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for a second time on August 15, 2010 as Co-Captain of the 1992 Gold Medal winning US Olympic Basketball Team (The Dream Team).
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 back in French Lick, Indiana, to his obvious desire to do his best at all times and contribute within the team concept to being a winner every time out. It is this universally recognized characteristic of his exceptionally strong inner drive that led to the title selection of his best-selling autobiography (11 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list), DRIVE. Larry has authored, with co-writer, Jackie MacMullan, a second book, through Warner Bros. publishers, which contains his thoughts on basketball, including his transition from player to Head Coach, which was published by Warner Books on September 15, 1999, entitled, Bird Watching: On Playing and Coaching the Game I Love. Larry has also co-authored a book with Magic Johnson on their great rivalry and careers, When the Game Was Ours, written with Jackie MacMullan and published by Houghton Mifflin of Boston, which appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List for 16 weeks. Larry was also inducted into the Indiana State University Hall of Fame in August of 1999 and in that same month was honored as an Indiana Living Legend by the Indiana Historical Society. Larry was inducted into the Springs Valley High School (Indiana) Hall of Fame in its inaugural year in 2010.
In 2010, the HBO Documentary, “Bird and Magic: A Courtship of Rivals” was released to great acclaim and described by the President of HBO Sports “as the most well-received sports documentary we have done to date”, also winning the prestigious Peabody Award and nominated for a television Emmy® Award. A Broadway play called “Magic/Bird” was produced by Tony Ponturo and Fran Kirmser and written by the acclaimed Oscar winning playwright, Eric Simonson, and opened in April of 2012 creating a unique and groundbreaking theatre experience for the basketball and sports world.
Larry has worked as hard off the court as on, becoming a highly desirable corporate and commercial spokesperson for a select number of major business and brand names, currently and in the past (i.e. McDonald’s in their internationally award winning, “Nothin‘ But Net“ TV commercial campaign, as well as their most recent Super Bowl TV commercial in 2010 and subsequent TV commercial campaigns); H.J. Heinz Frozen Food Co./Boston Market Frozen Entrees line; Microsoft Corporation; Gatorade; Hewlett Packard, Nestle, Kraft, Kellogg’s, Ford Motor Co., Prodigy Internet Service, General Mills, Pepsi/Mountain Dew, Miller Brewing Company’s responsible drinking spokesperson, etc., ) and also working on behalf of charities, including, but not limited to, Boys and Girls Club of Terre Haute, Indiana and the Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, Larry requested that all of the proceeds from his sold out 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. Larry has also appeared in cameo roles in feature films including, Space Jam; Blue Chips and Celtics Pride, which still air on television today.
In the Spring of 1997, Larry accepted the position of Head Coach of the Indiana Pacers Basketball Club and he successfully utilized his leadership qualities and many areas of expertise once again to lead the Pacers to their best regular season record in the history of the NBA franchise and pushing the world champion Chicago Bulls to their most difficult 7 game series in the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals, once again, demonstrating his champion instincts and performing at a high level on television, 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 was also selected as one of ESPN’s top Fifty 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 relating to the successful construction of the finest, state-of-the-art basketball arena in the United States, now Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Larry’s deep personal commitment to bettering his players during his tenure (that is, individual workouts with each of his players after every team practice and in the evenings, especially concentrating on the younger players, such as Jonathan Bender, Austin Croshere, Al Harrington and Jalen Rose, while instilling confidence and broadening the skills of his veteran players such as Dale Davis and Antonio Davis), This effort 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, greatly challenging the Los Angeles Lakers in an exciting, six game series that was watched around the world. Once again, Larry Bird had left his indelible mark of excellence on an organization.
On July 11, 2003, the Indiana Pacers and Larry Bird joined forces once again with the goal to bring a Championship to the franchise, when the Pacers named Larry Bird as their President of Basketball Operations. The Indiana Pacers earned the best winning regular season record in the NBA in Larry’s first year in his new position, and he and the Pacers continue in their quest for a Championship. Larry presented a three year rebuilding plan to the team owner and promised his owner, the Indiana Pacers fans and the whole State of Indiana that he would get the Indiana Pacers back into the playoffs in the third season of his rebuilding efforts, drafting many fine young players with great potential in doing so. And, sure enough, in the third season of his efforts, the Indiana Pacers have made it back into the playoffs, going on to reach the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals where they challenged the reigning NBA Champions Miami Heat to a final seventh game, much to the great joy and excitement of all of the basketball fans in Indiana, earning Larry the 2012 NBA Executive of the Year Award. Larry was acknowledged for building a team with great camaraderie and skill set cohesion when he drafted, traded and/or signed high caliber players, such as Roy Hibbert, Paul George, Lance Stephenson, David West and George Hill to name a few, all within the financial confines of the NBA salary cap. Larry is the only person in NBA history to win the Most Valuable Player Award, the Coach of the Year Award and the Executive of the Year Award – he is truly a unique person whose accomplishments stand alone in the sports world.
On November 8- 9, 2013, Larry and his family attended the Dedication ceremony of his seventeen foot high bronze statue at Indiana State University with all proceeds benefitting ISU’s The Larry Legend Scholarship Fund, established by the students of Indiana State University in tribute to Larry’s accomplishments while at ISU and throughout his illustrious career. The weekend of events generated a million dollars of proceeds and earned National and International Excellence in Education Development Awards.
Larry was honored by the Masquerade Ball in Indianapolis in 2014 which generated a million dollars in proceeds for the City’s at risk youth programs. An interesting fact is that the founder of Twitter fashioned the major social media outlet’s bird logo after Larry because of his great admiration for Larry, the logo is called Larry the Bird in the Twitter offices. In 2013, the great international player, Oscar Schmidt, asked Larry to be his Presenter at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremony because Larry is his all-time idol. Oscar is considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time, holding the record by far for the most points ever scored at 49,000 and Larry was thrilled to stand up for him at the ceremony.
In 2017, Larry elected to step aside from his position as President of Basketball Operations and continues his heavy involvement in the Indiana Pacers’ player, team and business matters of the Indiana Pacers in a high level Consultant position.
Lastly, an example of Larry’s fame worldwide is illustrated by a letter he received from the President of a bank in Boston, Massachusetts. The President of the bank was on a vacation tour of a remote monastery high in the Himalayas, when he heard one of the monks calling out, “Larry, Larry!” The banker asked the monk why he was saying the name Larry and the monk explained, “That is the name of my dog, Larry Bird”.
Larry and his family happily reside in Indianapolis, Indiana.