33 Larry Bird
Only 6 feet tall as a high school sophomore, Bird played guard for two years, then grew to 6-foot-4 and became a forward as a senior, averaging more than 30 points per game. He won a basketball scholarship to Indiana University in 1974 but left school after a month, went to a junior college for two months, then dropped out and returned home.
In 1975, he was given a scholarship at Indiana State, but had to sit out a year to become eligible. After averaging more than 30 points a game for two years, he was drafted by the NBA's Boston Celtics in the first round of the 1978 draft because his original class had graduated.
Bird opted to finish college. Now fully grown to 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, he averaged 28.6 points and 14.9 rebounds a game to lead Indiana State to an undefeated regular season and the NCAA tournament finals, where Michigan State, led by Earvin "Magic" Johnson, won the title. Bird was a consensus All-American and college player of the year.
He then signed a five-year contract with the Celtics, reportedly for more than $3 million. Some critics doubted that he would be a professional star, because he lacked foot speed and jumping ability. However, with Bird averaging 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds a game, Boston had the greatest turnaround in NBA history, going from a 29-53 record to 61-21 in 1979/80. Bird was named the league's rookie of the year.
He led the Celtics to NBA championships in 1981, 1984, and 1986 and was the most valuable player in the playoffs in 1984 and 1986 and the league's most valuable player three years in a row, from 1984 through 1986. He was also named the Associated Press male athlete of the year and the Sports Illustrated sportsman of the year in 1986.
Heel problems began to bother him during the 1986/87 season and he played in only six games in 1988/89 before having operations on both heels. He returned to play 75 games in 1989/90, but appeared in just 60 games in 1990/91 and 45 in 1991/92 before retiring.
Perhaps the most versatile player in basketball history, Bird could rebound and score from inside and was an outstanding outside shooter. He led the NBA in free throw percentage four times. And he may well have been the greatest passing forward ever. Although not a strong defender one on one, his anticipation and court sense made him a good team defender who often came up with important steals, especially on inbound passes.
An all-NBA forward nine consecutive seasons, from 1980 through 1988, Bird was named second-team all-NBA in 1990 and he was named to the all-defensive second team from 1982 through 1984.
After 13 seasons as a player in the NBA, including three championships with the Boston Celtics, Larry Bird returned to Indiana to coach the Pacers in 1997. He agreed to coach for three seasons stepping down at the end of the 2000 season.
In his third and final season as coach the Pacers made the NBA Finals for the first time, but lost in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers. Although he was asked to stay on as coach, Bird declined.
A native of French Lick, Larry Joe Bird was born on Dec. 7, 1956, the fourth child of Joe and Georgia Bird. At Springs Valley High School he played guard during his sophomore and junior years but did not truly excel until his senior year. During his senior year he averaged 30.6 points and 20 rebounds per game, and colleges around the country began scouting him.
Bird initially decided to play for Indiana University but felt overwhelmed by the size of the campus and left after only 24 days. He returned to French Lick and entered the Northwood Institute for a brief time. He finally decided to attend Indiana State University but had to sit out the first season. He began his college playing career with the Sycamores in 1976 and emerged a national collegiate star.
On June 8, 1979, Bird signed with the Boston Celtics. The contract netted him $3,250,000 for five years -- at the time the largest rookie contract in NBA history.
During his years with the Celtics Bird grew to become one of the greatest talents in the NBA. He led Boston to three NBA championships, won numerous MVP awards, and is credited with again making the Celtics a formidable franchise.
In 1992, plagued by back problems Bird retired and accepted the position of special assistant in the Celtics front office for five seasons. In 1997, frustrated with his largely ceremonial duties, Bird decided to pursue other options.
On May 12, 1997, he became head coach of the Indiana Pacers, and a year later he was named NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Pacers to a 58-24 season, the best in franchise history. That same year he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 2000, the Pacers finally made it past the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference and to the NBA Finals against Los Angeles. Led by NBA MVP Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers defeated Indiana in six games to win the NBA championship. Although the Pacers offered him a new contract to continue as coach, Bird declined and stepped down when his three-year contract expired. The Pacers hired another former NBA star to replace him --
1974- Honorable Mention All-State (High School)
1979-Collegiate Player of the Year awards from Associated Press, United Press International, and National Association of Coaches; wins John Wooden Award, given to the nationís best college basketball player; selected to the 1979 All-America team; leads ISU to the NCAA Final Four, losing in the championship game to Magic Johnson-led Michigan State University; signs a five-year, $3.25 million contract with the Celtics.
1980- NBA Rookie of the Year; named to the All-Rookie team and first-team All-NBA.
1981- Wins NBA championship; held scoreless at Golden State; voted first team All-NBA.
1982- All-Star Game MVP.
1983- Breaks Sam Jones?18-year team regular-season single-game scoring record (51) by scoring 53 points against the Indiana Pacers; in the same game sets a Celtics record with 24 points in the third quarter.
Career high 17 assists in a
win against the Golden State Warriors; wins NBA championship; named Finals
MVP; named league MVP for the first time.
1985- With a 33-point game against the Washington Bullets, he goes over 10,000 career points; wins second straight league MVP award.
1986- Wins the inaugural long-distance shootout at All-Star Weekend; wins third consecutive MVP award; wins NBA championship; wins Finals MVP award.
1987- Wins second straight long-distance shootout at All-Star Weekend; becomes first player in NBA history to shoot .500 from the floor and .900 from the free-throw line; wins NBA championship.
Wins third and final
All-Star Weekend long-distance shootout; Finishes the season with a career
high of 29.9 points per game.
1989- In the season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks scores 32 points in 33 minutes.
Collects 5,000th assist of
his career against the Charlotte Hornets; scores the 20,000th point of his
career against the Washington Bullets.
Has surgery to repair a
herniated disc in his back.
Wins gold medal in Barcelona
as a member of the original Dream Team; announces his retirement,
finishing his career with 21,791 points, 8,974 rebounds, and 5,695
1993- The Celtics hold 'Larry Bird
Night' in the Garden -- with no game scheduled -- to celebrate Birdís career and retire his number.
Becomes head coach of the
Indiana Pacers, signing a five-year, $22.5 million deal
1998- Named NBA Coach of the Year, having led the Pacers to a 58-24 record, the best in franchise history; coaches the East to a win in the All-Star game; Elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame
2000 - Leads Pacers to NBA Finals, but stands by his previous decision to retire after three years as coach.
Regular Season Record:
a storybook career that began in the small Indiana town of West Baden,
where he led Springs Valley High School to the state sectional
championship, and concluded with his number 33 jersey being retired by
the Boston Celtics, Larry Bird enjoyed a legendary 13-year professional
career with the Celtics. In 1979, when Bird joined the Celtics, he
launched an era both in Boston and throughout the NBA that may never
again be duplicated. At a time when the league and the Celtics needed a
boost, Bird and fellow rookie sensation Earvin "Magic" Johnson
provided the spark. By the time Bird retired in 1992, he held or shared
27 Celtics' records and had brought three more NBA championship banners
to Boston in 1981, 1984 and 1986. On two other occasions (1985 and
1987), the Celtics reached the NBA Finals.
A 12-time NBA All-Star and MVP of the
1982 All-Star Game, Bird was selected as the sixth overall pick in the
1978 draft. Following the draft, Bird returned to the college ranks for
his senior season and completed a memorable career at Indiana State.
Bird, who won the Sporting News, Naismith and Wooden awards as national
college Player of the Year in 1979, led ISU to an 81-13 three-year
record, including a 33-1 mark in 1979, the year Bird's Indiana State
team lost to Johnson's Michigan State squad in the national championship
game. Bird holds 30 ISU records, including most points (2,850), steals
(240) and rebounds (1,247). He scored in double figures in 93 of 94
games, tallied 40 or more points 15 times and recorded six triple
Prior to Bird's arrival in Boston in 1979, the Celtics had failed to make the playoffs for two straight seasons. His first season, Bird was named NBA Rookie of the Year and the Celtics advanced to the conference finals, the start of 13 straight postseason appearances. In Bird's 13 seasons, Boston won 10 Atlantic Division titles, had six 60-plus-win seasons and toppled the 50-win mark 12 times.
Larry Bird is one of the greatest
basketball players of all time and one very good reason to have Celtic
Pride. Along with Magic Johnson, he reinvigorated the NBA in the 1980s
with a competitive rivalry between the Celtics and the Lakers. He has won
every major distinction professional basketball bestows on its players. He
was the MVP in 1984, 1985 and 1986. He was named to the all NBA First Team
for 9 consecutive seasons from 1980-1988. He was a twelve time NBA
All-Star, including ten times elected by the fans to start, and All-Star
Game MVP in 1982. His Celtics won the World Championship in 1981, 1984 and
1986. He was the NBA Playoffs MVP in 1984 and 1986. He was also a member
of the Dream Team that brought home a Gold Medal from the Olympics in
Barcelona. Larry won the Long-Distance Shootout 3 times, proving he could
play a game inside out...all by himself.
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