The arrival of legendary Larry Bird to the Boston Celtics in the fall of 1979 marked a new ear in the world of basketball.
Known as ‘the Hick from French Lick,’ Bird grew up in Indiana. When he was a youngster, he never really thought he would make a living out of basketball as he wasn’t that interested in that sport in particular, but as time passed by, he became aware of his talent.
As he and his siblings didn’t have a lot to do in their spare time, they would play street basketball, which later became their central source of entertainment.
In an interview with Landscape, Bird recalled, “Back then I would just try to develop my skills as a young player, and I got in games around there. But these guys were older. When you’re 9, 10, 11, you see somebody 20, you think they’re old. But it was a number of guys who would show up every day. In between games they’d smoke their Kool cigarettes and drink their beer, but great guys.”
He then added, “What was really great for me and made me happy is 30 years ago I ran into Slim, who was down in Atlanta out there cooking at one of the hotels we stayed in. And he’d come up and say, ‘Remember me?’ And I knew I’d seen that face before, but I didn’t know where. He was a little bit older. But he said he was so proud of how I turned out.”
Bird’s beginnings in the sport, at least his official career, were in a small Indiana town, where he led Springs Valley High School to the state sectional championship.
His excellent performance earned him scholarship to Indiana University, where he played for the Indiana Hoosiers. However, just a month later, he went back to French Lick where he found a job as a sanitation worker. During that time, Bird experienced heartbreak when his father tragically ended his own life.
“When I was at [Indiana] State, finishing to get my degree, they had me teaching special needs kids in a high school. That was tough. It gave me a lot of respect for people who do that,” Bird told Boston Globe.
“I thought I’d wind up being a construction worker, pouring concrete. I wasn’t very good at shop in school, but I’d been around construction. As far as basketball goes, I just wanted to be the best player on my high school team.”
Bird then led Indiana State to the 1979 NCAA national championship game, a turning point in basketball history.
“Larry Legend,” as many called him, was every coach’s dream.
In the 1978 NBA draft, Larry was selected 6th overall by the Boston Celtics. Both he and Magic Johnson helped propel basketball to new heights.
Over the course of his successful career, Bird won three NBA Titles, was voted league MVP twice, and averaged over 24 points per game. And that’s not it as the list of achievements in the world of basketball he has under his belt is a lot longer.
Despite being under the spotlight his entire life, Bird has always kept his private life a secret. He even forbade reporters from asking him any personal questions, saying, “My private life is nobody’s business. Besides, it ain’t interesting.”
He was married to wife Janet Condra for a year. The couple later reconciled and welcomed a son together, Corrie Bird.
Bird wed his second wife in a very private and intimate ceremony. Reports were that the only people in attendance were Bird, wife Dinah Mattingly, Max Gibson, Max’s wife Jackie, and the Superior Court judge who performed the ceremony.
Bird and his second wife adopted two children together.
It was reported that when she heard her husband retired from playing, Mattingly was at a hair salon having her hair done. She then broke down in tears.
According to reports, Bird earned $24 million during his career and has a net worth of $75 million. Knowing this one would assume that he leads a lavish lifestyle, which is in fact, far from reality.
“When I’m home in Boston, I want to go out and eat, pay my bill, and get the hell out. Back in French Lick, I don’t have those problems, and that’s why I go back there. It’s the same with nice cars, Mercedes and all that,” Bird told Boston Globe.
“I can’t see putting $50,000 or $60,000 into a car when our house growing up was worth $10,000, I just can’t buy that. And clothes never did catch my eye, I never really enjoyed ’em. I always wore what I felt comfortable in. I’ll wear pretty much anything if I get it for free.”