Larry Joe Bird (December 7, 1956-) is one of two players in NBA history to capture the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award in three consecutive seasons (1984-1986), and honor he shares with fellow Celtic and Hall of Famer Bill Russell. Larry’s skill and dominance was recognized early on as a college player at Indiana Sate University when he, in his senior season, guided the Sycamores to the first NCAA Championship Game in their history in 1979. In 1979, Larry won the John R. Wooden Award, the Naismith College Player of the Year Award, AP National Player of the Year Award, Oscar Robertson Trophy and the Adolph Rupp Trophy. Though drafted by Boston, as the sixth overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft, Bird opted to play his final season at ISU, meeting Michigan State, which featured Ervin “Magic” Johnson, in the NCAA Final Game beginning one of the greatest rivalries in basketball history. Bird’s decision to play his final year of eligibility at Indiana State prompted the drafting of the “Bird Collegiate Rule,” preventing teams from drafting players prior to them announcing their eligibility for the draft. The additions of Bird and Magic returned the NBA to its prominence of the 1950s and ‘60s, increasing the box office returns as well as boosting the television viewership exponentially. As a rookie in 1979, Bird took the NBA Rookie of the Year Award despite Johnson’s highly successful season with the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers. During the 1980s, Bird’s Celtics or Johnson’s Lakers appeared in every NBA Finals series, facing each other on three occasions. The 12-time All-Star won three NBA Championships (1981, 1984, 1986), was NBA Finals MVP twice (1984, 1986) and was a nine-time All-NBA First Team player. Twice in his career he led the league in 3-pointers, once in 3-point attempts and four times in field goal percentage. During his NBA Finals MVP seasons of 1984 and 1986, Bird led the playoff in ten major categories for each season.
In 1992, the United States assembled possibly the greatest team to ever walk onto a basketball court when, for the first time, they opened the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, to professional athletes. The “Dream Team” had 11 future Hall of Famers on the roster who were so overpowering, they averaged over a 43-point differential in their wins, easily taking the gold medal. An ailing back took its toll on Bird in the waning years of his career, eventually forcing him to retire from playing in 1992 immediately following the Olympics. Bird ended his career with 21,791 points, 8,974 total rebounds, 5,695 assists, 649 3-pointers and 1,556 steals. Larry Bird was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998. In 1997, Larry accepted the head coaching position for the Indiana Pacers, committing to only three seasons, and turned the Pacers into contenders leading them to their best record in franchise history (58-24) despite having no coaching experience. He was voted the NBA Coach of the Year in 1998, becoming the first person in NBA history to have won the league’s MVP Award and Coach of the Year Awards. In 2003, Bird became President of Basketball Operations for the Pacers, overseeing all basketball matters.