The Legend turns 60; Larry Bird reflects on his style of play and how it shortened his career
Larry Bird hits the milestone age of 60 today. The now President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers has had an illustrious career as both a player and an executive. Bird is the only person ever to be awarded the NBA's Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year. This has everything to do with Larry's incessant strive towards excellence that he brings to work everyday.
Bird played 13 seasons for the Boston Celtics, and his success on the court speaks for itself. He's a 3-time NBA Champion, 3-time MVP, 12-time All-Star, and is heralded as one of the greatest players of all-time. Larry would throw himself around on the basketball court without any regard for his body. Every loose ball, every rebound, and every drive to the basket - Bird would go full-tilt. That's because to him, every single game he played was the most important game to him. He spoke with Baxter Holmes of ESPN last week about his mentality going into each game:
"One game. My thoughts were always that that night was the most important game in the world. Everybody in the world was watching that one game. And I had to be the best player on the court and win that game that night. That was my mentality, and it stuck with me all the way through my career. But knowing that, I knew that I was going to pay for it in a hard way. That's probably why, when I retired, after the press conference, I probably felt relief."
The weight lifted when he left basketball was a huge burden off Bird, and as much as he was relieved to remove that pressure from himself night after night, he ultimately left the game because his body was breaking down. As much as his reckless abandon on the court was a factor, Larry put a lot of strain on his body in his preparation as well. He admits that his excess running was certainly a factor to his body breaking down, but one of Bird's hallmarks was that he would never tire during a game. That kind of conditioning was absolutely necessary to him:
"Probably. But I couldn't [not do all that running]. I had that thing in my body that told me to get up and go -- that clock. When it's time to run, you go run. That's just the way I was. I remember my second year in the league, we were in the All-Star Game in New Jersey, and Artis Gilmore told me, "Man, you're really a good player, Larry. You're going to be great. But if you keep playing the way you're playing, you're not going to last long." I said, "I can't play any other way. That's the way I play."
Bird was known to be found before road games running through the concourse at the visiting arena, while the other teams would be going through a walk-through or shoot-around. His footsteps would echo throughout the empty building, and in some cases put fear into his opponents - he's here. Holmes asked Bird about this, and he brushed it off with a laugh:
"[Laughs] I don't know about that. I did do a lot of running. See, I'd never get tired during the game. I just never got tired."
Asked about if their was anything he would have liked to do differently, Larry would have added to his routine, but his conditioning would have remained a top priority:
"The one thing I would've liked to have had was core strength. I remember [Robert] Parrish never touched the ball in the summer, but he did yoga. That's a major part of it -- stretching and breathing. But me, I had to run my 3 miles to warm up. I had to ride my bike 12½ miles. I had to sprint. I always felt that I had to do more, more, more. That's why I broke down. That core strength, I think, would've taken care of most of that, other than the conditioning."
Today Larry resides in his home state of Indiana, and oversees everything basketball related with the Indiana Pacers. He'll still help the players with advice on their shooting technique, but he doesn't get out on the court anymore. Although he did mention that in-game when the stakes are high, he still gets the itch to run out on floor and help his team:
"I can remember one year, we were playing Miami in Game 7 and we weren't playing well and I went, "Man, I wish I could get out there and help Paul [George] and David [West] out a little bit."
In honor of his 60th birthday, here's a tribute the Celtics released today on Bird and his legacy:
In honor of Larry Bird's 60th birthday, a look back on his impact on the Celtics. pic.twitter.com/1INJD39M1u— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 7, 2016
Photo Credit (in order) - NBA.com, Associated Press
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