Mention the name Larry Bird to any basketball fan and the name invokes instant memories of step back jumpers, swishing nets, non-stop jabbering and long white legs in short green shorts.
Most importantly, his single name Bird recalls multiple NBA banners hanging above a parquet wood basketball court and a dominant all-star who regularly appeared in NBA Finals with the Boston Celtics.
Larry Joe Bird, also known as Larry Legend or the Hick from French Lick (IN) or simply Bird, ranks as one of the most revered basketball players in history. No first name or explanation is needed to identify the species of this particular Bird.
Quiet, aloof and competitive, this 6’9″ and 225 lb. forward also fast breaks his way onto the #16 spot in my sports comic book titled Favorite Single Named Athletes.
In 1978 Bird, along with Magic Johnson, battled in the NCAA Men’s Championship Game. They forged the beginning of a basketball rivalry that would enrapture basketball fans for the next 13 years. Back then, Bird’s Indiana State team lost to Johnson’s Michigan State team in the NCAA Final. It would not be the last time these emerging superstars would face-off in a championship series.
Voted as college basketball’s best overall player as both the Naismith and Wooden Award recipient in the 1978-79 season, Bird finished his college playing days at Indiana State with a 30.3 career scoring average. He went on to play for the Boston Celtics who shrewdly selected him as the 6th overall pick the year before in the 1978 NBA Draft.
Bird’s ascent in the NBA was instantaneous. He not only lived up to his initial billing, but he soared past the Celtics’ and NBA fans’ expectations.
Larry Legend won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 1979. He also teamed with 7-footer Robert Parrish and 6’11’ Kevin McHale to form one of the greatest front lines in NBA history. All three players were eventually elected into the NBA Hall of Fame.
During his career, Bird won three NBA Championships and three NBA Most Valuable Player Awards. A 12-time NBA All-Star, Bird retired in 1992 with outstanding career numbers: 24 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and 6 assists per game. As his stats confirm, the deadly shooting Bird was regarded as both a highly skilled offensive player and a terrific rebounder.
The blue collar Bird battled against his college nemesis Magic Johnson during his entire NBA career. During the 1980s, Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers played as if their clubs were the only two NBA franchises competing for an NBA title.
The storied rivalry between Bird and Magic is memorialized in books and television documentaries. That same rivalry is credited with transforming the NBA into the wildly popular professional sports league it’s become.
Bird and Magic’s friendship culminated in their playing for the 1992 USA Olympic Basketball Team in Barcelona, Spain. As members of the original USA Dream Team, Bird and Magic helped revolutionize the sport and became global basketball icons.
The intensely private Hick from French Lick might have been averse to the media during his playing days. But there’s no doubt this immediately recognizable and single named athlete has left an indelible mark on the sport.
This is one Bird who soared above his competitors.
MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!