NBA

Larry Bird Was a Great Basketball Player and a Not-So-Great Dad

Larry Bird was being honored by the Boston Celtics and Corrie Bird wanted to be there at her father’s retirement ceremony back in 1993. Corrie said her father never responded to her request. Corrie was born right after Bird and his ex-wife Janet Condra divorced after a very brief marriage and Larry Bird hasn’t had much, if anything, to do with her.

Bird’s legendary basketball career

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Larry Bird is one of the greatest basketball players ever to play in the NBA. He nearly gave it all up during his college years after dropping out of Indiana because he was homesick and wasn’t a fan of the large size of the school. There was a lot of turmoil in Bird’s life during those college years that included the suicide of his father, his marriage and quick divorce, and the birth of his daughter Corrie.

Bird nearly gave up on basketball as he left Indiana to work for the city, driving a garbage truck. A man named Bill Hodges, an assistant at Indiana State, convinced Bird to return to school and play for his Sycamores. Bird went back to college, played in the NCAA title game against Michigan State and Magic Johnson, and then was drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Bird played 13 seasons in the NBA, all with the Boston Celtics. He was a three-time NBA champion and a three-time MVP, winning three straight seasons. Bird was an NBA All-Star in 12 of his 13 seasons in the league. He finished his career, averaging 24.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.

Corrie Bird wanted to be a part of her father’s life

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According to an article in The Baltimore Sun, John Gearan of The Worcester Telegram had written a story quoting Larry Bird‘s then-15-year-old daughter Corrie saying she had written her father asking to go to Boston to see him during his big retirement ceremony. She said he never responded. Corrie acknowledged there wasn’t much contact between the two of them.

The Boston Globe had a brief article in 1998 about Corrie Bird appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show and speaking of her non-existent relationship with her father. “It’s been 20 years since you have lived without your father,” Winfrey said to Corrie, “why can’t you move on?” Corrie said she has moved on in some ways “but I still have hope that he can be part of my life.” Corrie’s mother Janet said, “When she was little, I made excuses. I couldn’t protect her from the hurt caused by her dad. I could protect her from everything else, but not that.”

In a Sports Illustrated article about athletes fathering out-of-wedlock children, Corrie, who also attended Indiana State University and was a terrific athlete, was quoted as saying she would always try to reach out to her father. “When I was younger, I would send him letters, and my mom would send him my school pictures and report cards,” she said. “We would send them certified mail to make sure he received them, but he just didn’t
respond.”

Bird mentions Corrie in his book

Larry Bird declined to speak for the Sports Illustrated piece. Corrie said that when her father took the Indiana Pacers coaching job, moving closer to her, she thought that might change the relationship. “I went to see the Pacers play earlier this season, and I went down to talk to Dinah (Bird’s wife) and see their kids,” she said. “(He) looked over and saw me holding (Bird’s daughter) Mariah, but he just kind of smiled awkwardly. I didn’t get to talk to him, though.”

At one point late in the season, however, Dinah had left two tickets for Corrie. she went to the game and she and her father spoke briefly afterward. “I was really happy to go to the game,” said Corrie. “Dad seemed interested in what I had to say. He walked me to my car, and he hugged me. I hope I can see more of him now.”

Bird hasn’t spoken publicly about Corrie. According to The Baltimore Sun, Bird said this about Corrie in his autobiography. “I can’t honestly say I’ve had that much to do with her life because of my differences with Janet (Corrie’s mother) and I think about Corrie all the time, but what can I really do now? I can’t go back and relive the first five or six years of her life. Corrie is a fine and beautiful young lady. Her mother has done a great job bringing her up in the best way possible. Corrie is also very athletic. She’s good at everything she does and I’m really proud of her. To tell you the truth, I’ve never really known how to handle the situation, but I love her and anytime Corrie needs anything, I will be there for her.”