As basketball fans know, Michael Jordan had no problem taking things personally. Whether he was actually insulted or simply needed to create some extra motivation for himself, His Airness was always happy to prove someone wrong. While he might have been a little less outwardly aggressive, Larry Bird possessed a similar drive. The Hick From French Lick was always out to prove that he was somebody, and you could underestimate him at your own peril.
And, like MJ, Larry Legend experienced a snub in high school that served as some early motivation on the hardwood. Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
Larry Bird made the Indiana All-Star team but barely saw the floor
Even during high school, Larry Bird proved to be quite the talent. One basketball coach, however, apparently missed the memo.
“All that shooting off the side of a barn turned into Bird becoming a high school star. At Springs Valley High, Bird scored 1,125 career points, averaged 30.6 points and 20.5 rebounds,” Dana Hunsinger Benbow recounted in the Indianapolis Star. “He was named an Indiana All-Star.”
When that All-Star game arrived, though, things didn’t go according to plan for the young forward. Rather than strutting his stuff, Bird spent most of the time stapled to the bench. According to Bill Benner, a sports columnist for the Indianapolis Star, the coach “didn’t think [Bird] was worth” playing.
“I recall Larry being tremendously upset,” Benner recalled. “That was another stepping stone for Larry, his unending drive to prove himself, to prove he was far more than just a small town, country kid.”
Needless to say, Bird followed through and became an NBA legend
Although things didn’t follow a straight trajectory from after high school — Bird almost left basketball behind during college — things ended up working out. If the forward was out to prove he could be somebody, he more than exceeded those goals.
In the Association, Bird made an immediate impact. He elevated the struggling Celtics and, before long, had led the club to a championship. By the time he retired, Larry Legend had brought two additional titles back to Boston, earning him a place in the sports-crazed city’s history.
And, lest you think that the forward was simply a member of some talented teams, his stats prove that Bird was leading from the front. During his 13 professional seasons, the forward averaged 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. He also earned regular-season MVP honors on three occasions, which is even more impressive when you consider the NBA talent at the time.
All of that combined to make Bird one of the biggest names in basketball history. If he wanted to prove he could make something of himself, he passed that test with flying colors.
“Larry believed in Larry,” Benner explained, “long before anyone else believed in him.”
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference