When you’re a star athlete, there are plenty of perks that come with the territory. During his time with the Boston Celtics, no one could doubt Larry Bird’s status. The forward, however, wasn’t always interested in the trappings of his fame and fortune.
In the summer of 1984, Larry Bird claimed the second NBA championship of his career; that victory, as per tradition, was followed by a trip to the White House. When it came time to board the plane, though, the Celtics star had no intention of flying south to meet Ronald Reagan.
Larry Bird’s road to becoming a living legend
During his time on the hardwood, Larry Bird grew into a living legend. At one point, however, the forward almost left the sport basketball behind.
Unsurprisingly, Bird dominated the competition in high school and earned a scholarship to the University of Indiana. Once he arrived in Bloomington, though, things hit a snag. Compared to his hometown of French Lick, the college campus was overwhelming; Bird left school before ever suiting up for Bob Knight’s Hoosiers.
Larry Legend headed home and started working as a garbage man. While he enjoyed the work, Indiana State University basketball coach Bill Hodges convinced him to give college basketball another try. That decision would change sports history forever.
With the Sycamores, Bird became a legitimate star. The forward averaged 30.3 points per game during his three collegiate and claimed the 1979 National Player of the Year crown; he also carried Indiana State to the 1979 NCAA title game, setting the stage for a famous showdown with Magic Johnson.
Winning championships with the Boston Celtics
After Larry Bird’s junior season at Indiana State, the Boston Celtics snagged him with the sixth-overall pick of the 1978 NBA draft. While there was some drama—Bird threatened to return to school and play out his senior year, hoping for a bigger contract—the forward eventually signed on the dotted line.
As soon as he hit the professional hardwood, Bird proved that he was worth the price of admission. During his first season in the association, the forward averaged 21.3 points per game and claimed the Rookie of the Year title. That success, however, was only the beginning.
All in all, Larry Legend spent 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, trash-talking his way to the top. While back problems plagued the end of his career, Bird still averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game during his time in the association. He also won three NBA championships and took home three NBA MVP awards, earning a place in Boston sports lore.
Larry Bird once blew off a trip to the White House to meet Ronald Reagan
Traditionally, championship teams are invited to the White House to meet the president in celebration of their success. In 1984, however, Larry Bird had no interest in heading to Washington, D.C. His reasons, however, were personal rather than political.
“There was a wild, hot celebration in the Garden, a team party at a Faneuil bar called Chelsea’s, then an after-party at the Winchester home of team marketing director Mike Cole,” Dan Shaughnessy explained in the Boston Globe. “Bird stayed out until the sun came up, did a live interview with a Boston radio station, then went home to Brookline to sleep while nine of his teammates were gathering at Logan’s Terminal A.”
Bird didn’t leave his teammates without saying goodbye, though. Before heading home, he told them, “If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me.”
If anyone had the clout—not to mention the confidence—to say that, it was Larry Bird.