Larry Bird

One of the greatest basketball players of all time emerged from the small town of French Lick, Indiana. With a
population of 2,059 people, around 1,600 of them came to watch the Valley High basketball games, especially the
blond-haired shooting whiz with a funny smile named Larry Joe Bird.
Following a sophomore season that was shortened by a broken ankle, Bird erupted as a junior. Springs Valley went
19-2 and young Larry became a local celebrity. Generous fans always seemed to be willing to give a ride to Bird's
parents, who couldn't afford a car of their own. As a senior Bird became the school's all-time scoring champion.
About 4,000 people attended his final home game.
When Bird went on to college, he found life very difficult. He started out as an Indiana Hoosier, but later left Bobby
Knight?s team. In 1976 Bird enrolled at Indiana State, which had a 12-14 record for the 2 previous years. Home-
game attendance hovered around 3,100 when he arrived, but as he had done in Springs Valley, Bird single-handedly
packed the house and propelled his team to respectability. He averaged better than 30 points and 10 rebounds for the
Sycamores during his first campaign. Season-ticket sales tripled. TV stations showed film clips of Bird instead of
commercials. Students skipped class to line up for tickets eight hours before tip-off. "Larry Bird Ball" was the most
popular sport in Terre Haute. The Sycamores went undefeated and reached No. 1 in Bird's senior year-that is, until a
Michigan State team featuring a 6-foot-9 guard named Earvin "Magic" Johnson knocked them off in the 1979
NCAA Championship Game. Bird was !
named the 1978-79 College Player of the Year and left ISU as the fifth- highest scorer in NCAA history. The
Sycamores had gone 81-13 during Bird's three-year career.
Then In 1978 the Boston Celtics selected him in the NBA Draft, hoping that he would skip his senior season. Bird
decided to stay one more year at Indiana. The Celtics? record that year was 29-53. Then in ?79-80, Bird finally came
to Boston and sparked one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in NBA history. The 1979-80 Celtics improved
by 32 games to 61-21 and returned to the top of their division. Playing in all 82 games, Bird led the team in scoring
(21.3 ppg), rebounding (10.4 rpg), steals (143), and minutes played (2,955) and was second in assists (4.5 apg) and
three-pointers (58). Bird was named NBA Rookie of the Year and made the first of his 12 trips to the NBA All-Star
Game.


The next year the Boston Celtics drafted Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. That year the Celtics took the
championship by defeating the Houston Rockets. Bird once again led the team in points
(21.2 ppg), rebounds (10.9 rpg), steals (161), and minutes (3,239).
In 1981-82 Bird made the first of his three consecutive appearances on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. He
finished runner-up to Moses Malone for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award. Bird scored 19 points in the 1982
NBA All-Star Game, including 12 of the East's last 15, earned him the game's MVP trophy. It wasn't until 1983-84,
however, that the Celtics returned to the NBA Finals. By that time Bird's scoring average had reached the mid-20s,
and he was averaging upwards of 7 assists, and making nearly 90 percent of his free-throw attempts.
Coming off the first of his three consecutive MVP seasons, Bird helped the Celtics to a seven-game victory against
the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals. It was Bird's first postseason meeting with Magic Johnson since
the 1979 NCAA title. In Game 5, with the temperature inside Boston Garden soaring to 97 degrees, Bird pumped in
34 points, leading the Celtics to a 121-103 victory. In Game 7 a record TV basketball audience watched Bird score
20 points and gather 12 rebounds in Boston's 111-102 win. With series averages of 27.4 points and 14.0 rebounds,
Bird was named Finals MVP.
Bird's scoring average soared to 28.7 points in 1984-85, the second highest mark in the league and the second
highest of his career. He boosted that average with a career-best 60 points against Atlanta on March 12. He also
made 56 out of 131 three-point attempts, second in the NBA behind the Lakers' Byron Scott. Injuries to Bird's elbow
and fingers, however, contributed to the Celtics' six-game loss to