Happy Birthday Larry Legend!

The man responsible for the Celtics' 14th, 15th and 16th World Championships turns 56 today - celebrating it perhaps in his hometown of French Lick, Indiana like he prefers to be - as he declared  back in '81.  But no doubt, Larry Legend has his place in Boston and its history, as one of the greatest sports heroes it has ever seen - ranking up there with fellow legends Bill Russell, Ted Williams and Bobby Orr.

Bird cemented his legacy in Boston not just with three MVPs (regular season), two Finals MVPs, a dozen All-Star Game appearances and three World Championships but with the pride, ferocity and leadership that marked his approach to the game.  From his 60-point game against the Hawks in 1985 (erasing McHale's nine-day-old, 53-point record) to his triple double (29 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists) in the '86 title clincher vs. the Rockets to THE STEAL against the Pistons in '87 to the shootout vs. Dominique Wilkins in '88, to the return-from-a-fall-and-bruised-face effort against the Pacers in '91... the memories and celebrations he's created are countless.

But before Bird would become a Celtic hero, though, a lot of things had to turn out right.  For starters, he almost quit hoops in '74 following a traumatic 24-day stay at Indiana U. and Bobby Knight.  Coming from tiny French Lick, Bird was overwhelmed by the IU atmosphere and after dropping out, took to working for the city sanitation department.  Had Indiana State U. coach Bill Hodges not been persistent in recruiting Bird to return to collegiate basketball in '75, the Legend might never have been born.

The second significant part of that story comes via the Celtics front office - where then-general manager Red Auerbach craftily selected Bird with the sixth pick in 1978 draft - even though Bird had not declared for early eligibility and had already announced that he was returning to ISU for his senior year.  Bird was draft-eligible in '78 - his original graduation class - but since he dropped out for a year, he earned an extra year of eligibility and was intent on using it.  Auerbach, who could only own Bird's draft rights for a year, risked losing Bird for nothing had Larry decided not to sign with the C's before the 1979 NBA draft (his name would have been thrown back into the draft pool and Boston - which had no first-round pick in '79 - might not even have had a shot at selecting him... but then again, this was Red Auerbach we are talking about and he could have manufactured a trade somehow).

But after little after a year went by and Bird did sign with the Celtics and the rest, as they say, is history.

(here, Larry was signing his rookie deal which was for $650,000.00 - big bucks back in his day - flanking him were Red at left and coach Bill Fitch at right)

Happy birthday Larry Legend!  Thanks for all the memories, inspiration and championships you've given us Celtics fans!  We hope to someday see you walking back through those TD Garden doors - in no matter what  capacity (even just as a fan watching the current C's) - even though we know where you'd probably rather be.

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