Larry Bird Was Fueled, Not by Money, but by Quieting Hostile Opposing Crowds With Late-Game Heroics
A quick look at Larry Bird’s career shows that he was not fueled by money, but by the need to silence hostile opposing crowds with late-game heroics.
Larry Bird was a basketball player and sportscaster. He is considered to be one of the best players in NBA history.
Larry Bird didn’t need to be the highest-paid rookie after a celebrated collegiate career at little-known Indiana State. All of this happened as a result of agent Bob Woolf’s aggressive negotiating methods. The former Boston Celtics player wasn’t hungry because of his wealth. Basketball was the answer. Larry Legend was driven by the desire to silence a hostile opposition audience.
Larry Bird was just looking to play basketball.
During an NBA basketball game at The Summit in Houston, Texas in 1981, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics dribbles the ball while being guarded by Robert Reid of the Houston Rockets. | Getty Images/Focus on Sport
Bird never wanted to be a part of the Celtics’ contract talks with Red Auerbach. He just wanted to play basketball. Bird had never had a lot of money growing up, and he didn’t need it when he began his professional basketball career.
Bird told Sports Illustrated in 1981, “The way I live, I’d be content earning ten or twelve thousand dollars a year.”
Woolf’s role, on the other hand, was to obtain his client the best bargain possible. Bird was one of the best rookies in the NBA at the time, and he battled for him.
When Bird came to Boston for the first time, Woolf understood straight away that his client was simply a normal person who didn’t have a lot of money.
In 1981, Woolf brought up Bird’s hotel bill from that trip to Boston and remarked, “Look at this.” “It’s been three nights. All I have is a room and a tax bill. There is no fee for room service. There won’t be a phone call.”
Shutting down opposition fans and having the ball in his hands in crunch time inspired Larry Bird.
Bird was never a fan of being in the limelight. When the game was on the line, he just wanted the ball. Bird was known for his trash-talking on the court, but he was never a fan of chatting after the game. He spoke the most of the time using his basketball abilities. That provided him the most joy, particularly when the rival supporters’ hearts were broken.
Bird recounted his team’s playoff journey to his first NBA championship, when the Celtics beat the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, in that 1981 Sports Illustrated story.
He spoke about defeating the Chicago Bulls in four games in the first round.
In that series, I made the greatest shot of my life,” Bird recalled. “Fourth game, tied, their stadium, timeout right before the fourth quarter, and they’ve had about 20,000 people going crazy. ‘Let’s do something to calm this throng down,’ says Coach Fitch.
“We tossed the ball in, played with it for a bit, I hit a 3-pointer, stole the ball, went back, and laid it in. Within 40 seconds, we had climbed five places. That audience just went ‘Whoooo!’ Stopped. It was over after that.”
Boston came back from a 3-1 series disadvantage against the Philadelphia 76ers in the following series. In Game 6, they again came back from a 17-point deficit to win on the road. Boston was also behind by seven in the last game of the series. Bird came up big with a pair of thefts and then a game-winning shot with his last shot.
Bird stated after the game, “I wanted the ball in my hands for that final shot.” “Not in the hands of anybody else in the world.”
Bird was the most self-assured player on the team.
Bird wasn’t done yet. In Game 6 of the 1981 NBA Finals, the Celtics attempted to wrap out the series on the road. The Celtics were up 82-67 going into the fourth quarter, but the Rockets fought back with a stunning rally. The Rockets were down three points with 1:51 left in the game, and the crowd was booing them. Not for long, at least.
A wide-open Bird calmly sank a 3-pointer after receiving a feed from Tiny Archibald to change momentum and deflate the crowd.
Bird told Sports Illustrated, “I didn’t even realize that was a 3-pointer.” “I was in shooting position when I caught the ball. Nobody was in the vicinity. It was newly released.
When I’m that open for a shot, I almost always feel like I can’t miss it. And if I get a chance to get us a game like that, I have to grab it because I know I have a good chance of making it.”
Bird was driven by those huge shots and the crowd’s silence, not by the $24 million he earned as an NBA player.
RELATED: Larry Bird Had a Basketball Dream That Never Came True
Larry Bird was a basketball player who has been retired for over two decades. He is most famous for his time with the Boston Celtics, and his quieting hostile opposing crowds late-game heroics. Reference: when did larry bird retire.
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