Larry Bird is one of the most popular NBA legends to ever live, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to him. Throughout his career with the Boston Celtics, Bird never wanted the attention most stars yearn to receive. But when a restaurant owner once approached him about endorsing his business, Bird agreed to do it.
However, the Indiana State product said it had to be under one condition: his teammates ate for free.
Larry Bird and the Celtics were the kings of Boston
The city of Boston loved Larry Bird and the Celtics, and they felt that way for good reason.
Bird was one of the biggest stars in the NBA throughout his 13 years with the franchise. He won three league MVP awards, earned 12 All-Star and 10 All-NBA selections, and did a little bit of everything on the court, averaging 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists for his career.
However, he also helped lead the Celtics to significant success.
Bird led the team to eight Eastern Conference Finals appearances and five trips to the NBA Finals. The Celtics also won three championships with Larry Legend, and he won two Finals MVP awards.
The 1980s were, indeed, a great era for Celtics basketball. So, everyone in Boston likely wanted Bird to be the face of their business.
Larry Legend made a deal with a restaurant owner
Bird had some legendary teammates during his Celtics tenure, including Bill Walton, who spent the last couple of years of his career with Boston.
In Walton’s book, Back from the Dead, he shared a hilarious story of the time a restaurant owner wanted Bird to do an advertisement.
According to Walton, Larry kept turning the guy down, but the man, who is believed to be named Harry, “would not take no for an answer.”
“Finally one day, Larry said, ‘OK. I’ll do it,’” Walton wrote. “ … When they came to talk price, Larry said that he didn’t want anything for the deal. Harry was stunned. Larry said that the only thing that he wanted was for each of his teammates — there were eleven of us– … to be able to come into the Scotch ‘n Sirloin anytime, bring their families, and eat for free — but that we would all leave a cash tip, and if the tip wasn’t big enough, to be sure and tell Larry, and he would take care of it.”
The two had an agreement, and Walton wrote that the team took full advantage of it. Rick Carlisle even ate “every meal there all season long,” and Bird began calling him “Teriyaki Chicken” because of the meal he frequently ate there.
“We went there all the time,” Walton wrote. “After almost every game, the whole team would go to this very nice restaurant just down the street and eat and drink all night long. Each player and their families would have their own table. And at the end of the night, Larry would quietly check to make sure that the plates were clean and the tip was the right size.”
Larry Bird was not much for fame and glory
Bird’s interaction with Harry wasn’t the first time he tried running from fame and glory.
According to a 1985 Orlando Sentinel article, Bird’s high school coach, Jim Jones, called him “a shy kid.” He even declined newspaper interviews throughout his final season at Indiana State, saying, “I don’t like to put myself in somebody’s hands.”
“He gets embarrassed when people make a fuss over him. You have to understand him,” Jones said, per the Orlando Sentinel.
Larry Bird may have been one of the most famous athletes in the world throughout his NBA career with the Celtics, but it seems that he never acted like it.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference