Larry Bird biography
Born in West Baden Springs, Indiana, on December 7, 1956, Larry Bird grew up and attended college in Indiana before heading to the NBA to join the Boston Celtics, the team with which he would spend his entire pro career. Over the course of his 13 seasons with the Celtics, Bird led the team to three championships, was named NBA Most Valuable Player three times, and made the All Star Team 12 times.
Larry Bird was born on December 7, 1956, in West Baden Springs, Indiana, and raised in the nearby town of French Lick, where he excelled at basketball at an early age. Bird attended Springs Valley High School in French Lick and was a key component of the school’s basketball team, becoming its leading all-time scorer by the time he graduated in 1974. Bird’s high school basketball stats earned him an athletic scholarship to the University of Indiana, where he was to play for legendary coach Bob Knight. But Bird felt some trepidation at the size of the Hoosier campus and withdrew from school, enrolling at Indiana State the next year.
In his senior year of college, Bird led the Indiana State Sycamores to the NCAA Championship game against the Michigan State Spartans, a team led by another future NBA superstar, Ervin “Magic” Johnson. It was the first time the two star players would face each other in a head-to-head battle, and it began a friendship and rivalry that would span both players’ careers. Johnson and the Spartans triumphed, but Larry Bird left Indiana State that year with the USBWA College Player of the Year Award, the Naismith Award, and the Wooden Award. He was also the fifth-highest scorer in NCAA history, even though he only played for three years.
Bird in the NBA
In 1978, Larry Bird was the Boston Celtics' No. 1 draft pick, signing a contract for a then-record $650,000 a year (he played his final year at Indiana State, however, joining the Celtics in 1979). He justified his salary right out of the gate, averaging 21.3 points per game and taking NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Bird also led the Celtics in rebounding, averaging 10.4 rebounds per game; as well as steals and minutes played, with an average of 143 steals and 2,955 minutes played each game.
In Bird’s second year in the NBA, the Celtics acquired center Robert Parrish from the Golden State Warriors and drafted Kevin McHale. They three players would form a legendary frontline, perhaps the greatest in NBA history. That season, the Celtics posted a 61–21 record and defeated the Houston Rockets to take the first NBA Championship of Bird’s career.
The '80s: The Celtics and The Lakers
Along with Magic Johnson, who also entered the NBA in 1979, Larry Bird was a key figure in revitalizing the NBA in the 1980s, and Bird’s and Johnson’s teams dominated, with one team or the other, or both, appearing in every NBA Championship in the decade. Bird was already known after two years in the league for consistent, clutch scoring and tenacious defense, which seemed especially uncanny as Bird was not particularly fast on his feet—he developed a reputation for not merely responding to his opponents' moves but seeing how they would play out before they happened.
Bird's concentration and composure were unrivaled as well, and he established himself as one of the most unshakable and driven players in the NBA.
A Career for the Ages
Larry Bird led the Celtics into the NBA playoffs 12 of his 13 seasons—the team failed to make the playoffs in 1989—and with the team captured the championship three times, in 1981, 1984 and 1986. Bird made the All-Star Team 12 times and was named the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in 1992. For three consecutive years, from 1984 to 1986, Bird was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player, and in 1990, he hit a scoring milestone—20,000 points over the course of his career. When Bird retired in 1992, he had accumulated 21,791 points, raking him 29th all-time scorer as of 2012.
The summer of 1992 marked the first time the United States sent professional athletes to the Olympic Games. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and other NBA stars formed the American men's basketball team, which would become known as the "Dream Team." Bird and his teammates easily won the Olympic gold medal for the United States, and just a few weeks later, Bird announced his retirement from professional basketball.
The year of his retirement, Larry Bird began the next chapter of his life as a front-office special assistant for the Celtics, a post he held for five years. In 1997, Bird accepted the head coach position with the Indiana Pacers, in a move that returned him to his home state. Bird had no previous coaching experience, but he led the Pacers to a 58–24 record—the franchise's best at the time—in the 1997–98 season and was named the NBA Coach of the Year. Bird stepped down as head coach in 2000, but in 2003, returned to the organization as president of Basketball Operations. At the end of the 2011–12 season, he was named NBA Executive of the Year, making him the only person to be named the NBA’s MVP, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year.
For his career efforts, Larry Bird was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998. He was also listed 30th on ESPN SportsCentury’s top 50 athletes of the 20th century.