Larry Bird

Biography by: Zane R

Early life

Larry Bird was born on December 7,1956. At birth he was big. Larry shot up in junior high to a towering height of a man-child at 6’7” before he made it to his sophomore year in high school. Larry grew up with a drinking dad who had lots of jobs. When he saw his brothers playing basketball he was intrigued. At first they wouldn't let him play until his dad told them they had to let him play. He soon would be a first or second pick and others wanted him on their team rather than the other boys. His brothers and friends were bigger than him so sometimes he had to play rough. Bird has said that being poor as a child is what motivated him.

Middle school through college

Jim Jones was an early coach for Bird. "He taught me every basic move there is" Larry said.His parents divorced when Larry was in high school, and his dad committed suicide about a year later. With Larry being close to his dad, he spent many hours playing basketball to occupy his time. This started before school as Larry would shoot 200 shots before he started the day. Larry used basketball as an escape from his family troubles. Bird was looking like a pro in high school. Many colleges wanted Bird. Larry's temper was hurting his game. He would get kicked off the court, didn't show up for practices, and get technicals for yelling at the officials. The coach, Garry Holland, knew he had to get through to Bird. This temper had to get under control if he wanted to take his game to the next level. Holland told Larry's mom and Larry himself. Larry heard exactly what he was saying. Larry began trying to control his temper. It was nothing for Larry to score 30, 42, or 55 points in a game. Soon a teammate fell on Larry's ankle and broke it. His high school season was over. Larry bird hated watching his team play without him. Soon though Larry would be heading off to college. At first he started out at Indiana University. He left after 24 days. He hated leaving star coach Bobby Knight. The school was just too big. He felt out of place having to borrow money and clothing from his roommate. He had to leave. He missed one year and in the next year attended ISU, Indiana State University. It was a much smaller college than Indiana. Although most of his time was spent playing basketball he found time to find his first love. He married Janet Condra, but they were divorced later. She couldn't understand how he spent so much time playing basketball. Quickly after he fell in love with Dinah Mattingly. She loved basketball. Larry appreciated that they could have a good time while he was doing what he loved. She was funny, athletic, and a good friend. Bird played his first college basketball game as a sophomore. He scored 31 points and his college career began. He averaged 32.4 points per game throughout his first year as a college player. NBA teams started looking at Bird early. Bird decided not to go pro and stick around for another year. His junior year his team went 19 - 7. In the conference championship, a teammate jumped on Bird and injured his back. That year they made it to the NIT. Before the tournament game, Bird received treatment for his back. Even after treatment Bird scores 29 points in their disappointing loss to Creighton. His junior season was over. Bird was drafted as the sixth player overall in June of 1978, Bird decided to stay in college and finish his senior year. The Celtics were disappointed but said Bird was worth the wait. In 1978, Bird's team made it to the Final Four. Bird meets up with Ervin "Magic" Johnson in the championship. A rival that would later prove to save the NBA. Magic and the Michigan State Spartans won the battle. They held Bird to 19 points.
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Bird's $3 million dollars contract over 5 years was the highest paid salary for any rookie in any sport. His career as a Celtic begins in 1979. The year before Bird joined the Celtics, they were 32 - 50. Bird was the guy to turn the team around. Bird was tested his rookie year. Bird won rookie of the year award over Magic Johnson with a score of 63 - 3. The very next year Bird found himself playing for the NBA championship against Houston. His dream was winning came true on game 6. His drive for a second championship started. His Celtic team constantly battled for the top spot for almost every season of his 13 year career in the pros. Throughout these years, Bird played through many injuries. The injuries ranged from broken collar bone, torn ligaments, broken knuckles, fractured cheekbone, a broken nose, bone spurs on his heels, and back problems. His back is what seemed to give him the biggest trouble. In 1992, Bird announced his retirement from the NBA. The pain was too much. Just before he played his final game, he played in the Olympics in Spain. He was shocked to see that he was known around the world. As modest as Larry was, he didn't think that he deserved the attention.

When asked who is the best player of the NBA, very few people would say BIrd. He was not fast or a jumper like Michael Jordan. He was not showy. He was a hard working, consistent athlete. If his shooting was off for the night, BIrd found it his mission to find the open man. His passing was just as spectacular as the rest of his game. When you top this with the time he spent studying the game and his opponents, he was a total package. Bird knew where his opponents strengths and weaknesses were and he played them. Magic Johnson said it well. "Larry Bird achieved his success the old-fashioned way. He worked, and worked, and then worked some more. To most players, basketball is a job. To Larry, it was his life."

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