Larry Bird Explained Why He Dedicated the 1984 Boston Celtics Championship to the People of Terre Haute, Indiana
Every basketball fan knows the ties Larry Bird has to Indiana. The Boston Celtics legend grew up in French Lick, Indiana, and had a cup of coffee at Indiana University before finishing his college career at Indiana State University.
He then spent 13 NBA seasons with the Celtics, winning three championships. After his second title, he dedicated the championship to the people of Terre Haute. He later explained why, knowing the people of Boston might be a bit insulted.
Larry Bird wowed the Boston Celtics after a dominant run at Indiana State
By no means is Indiana State a college basketball powerhouse, but Larry Bird made the Sycamores one back in the late 1970s. Bird led Indiana State through a magical playoff run that landed the Sycamores in the 1979 NCAA title game against Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans. Although he lost, Bird was one of the biggest names in college basketball.
The Celtics clearly knew of Bird well before that title game. They used the sixth pick in the 1978 NBA Draft to select Bird as a junior. Bird elected to play out his senior year, but the wait was well worth it for Boston.
After some serious contract negotiations, Bird became the highest-paid rookie in NBA history, and he didn’t disappoint. Bird won Rookie of the Year honors and helped turn a 29-win team into one that collected an NBA-best 61 victories in the 1979-80 season.
In just his second NBA season, Bird led the Celtics to the first of their three championships in the decade when they topped the Houston Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals. After failing to reach the championship round in 1982 and 1983, Bird led the Celtics to the NBA Finals for the next four seasons.
During that stretch, he was named MVP for three straight seasons (1984-1986). He was a 12-time All-Star and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.
Bird explained why he dedicated Boston’s second title to the people of Terre Haute
After the Celtics knocked off the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games to win the 1984 NBA Finals, Bird dedicated that championship to the folks in Terre Haute. Huh? He explained why he did so in his book, Drive: The Story of My Life, when he wrote about how Indiana State, located in Terre Haute, was the hottest college team in Indiana when he was there.
“The more we won, the bigger we got,” Bird wrote. “They started having pep rallies. Once, after beating Purdue up there, we got back to find 10,000 people in that gym waiting for us. I didn’t want anything to do with that. In my mind, we hadn’t accomplished anything yet.
“The way I saw it, what would really be impressive would be to see 10,000 people greeting us if we lost to Purdue. That would mean a lot more to me than having them there when you win.
“Well, those people in Terre Haute showed me something after we lost the NCAA title game to Michigan State. When we got back, there were I don’t know how many thousands of people lining the streets all the way from the airport to the city. They’ll probably never realize how grateful I am to all of them for that show of support.
“That’s the day I realized how much those people deserved that title. That’s why I dedicated the 1984 Celtics championship to the people of Terre Haute. I’m still not sure if the people of Boston understood the meaning of that gesture, but that was the reason.”