Larry Joe Bird (born December 7, 1956) is a former NBA basketball player. Considered one of the best players of all time, Bird, along with colleagues Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, revolutionized the game during the 1980s. Drafted sixth overall by the Boston Celtics, he played small forward for the team for his entire 12-year career.
Bird was born in West Baden Springs, Indiana, grew up in the adjacent town of French Lick, and was a star high school player. He originally enrolled at Indiana University, but left before the team's first game. He eventually ended up at Indiana State University. He led the ISU Sycamores to the NCAA championship game in 1979, only to lose to the Michigan State University Spartans, led by Magic Johnson. Twenty-five years later, the 1979 NCAA championship game between Michigan State and Indiana State is still the most watched college basketball game ever. Bird won the Naismith and Wooden awards, given to the year's top male college basketball player.
Bird, a 6' 9" (206 cm) forward, was prolific at virtually all aspects of the game. He was one of the league's most accurate shooters, usually finishing among the top 3-point shooters as well as among the top free-throw shooters. He won the All-Star Game's 3-point competition three times. His career average was 24.3 points per game, with a high of 29.9 points per game in the 1987-88 season. Bird was a great positional rebounder, averaging 10.0 rebounds. He was also known as an excellent passer, averaging 6.4 assists, high for a forward. He was even a strong defensive player, making the All-Defensive Second team three times and ending his career eighth overall in total steals. Bird was a three-time league MVP, an all-star many times, and All-Star Game MVP in 1982. He won three NBA titles: in 1981, 1984, and 1986.
When the NBA imposed a salary cap, a special provision was made allowing teams to exceed it in order to retain a player already on the roster was made and became known as the "Larry Bird Rule".
Bird announced his retirement on August 18, 1992, after helping win the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, where he was part of the so-called Dream Team.
After retiring, Bird was admitted to the Basketball Hall of Fame. His jersey number, 33, was retired by the Celtics. He was also named to the NBA's "50 Greatest Players" list, in 1996. The Celtic frontcourt (center and two forwards) of Robert Parrish, Kevin McHale and Bird may have been the best in NBA history. Bird was also considered the best of the relatively few Caucasian players of his era.
He began a new basketball career as the coach of the Indiana Pacers at the start of the 1997-1998 season, and he was named the NBA Coach of the Year for that season. He led the team to three straight Eastern Conference finals appearances and one trip to the NBA Finals in 2000.
He stepped down as Pacers coach shortly after the end of the 2000 season. He pushed for the hiring of his assistant and friend Rick Carlisle as his replacement, but the job eventually went to Isiah Thomas.
In 2003, he returned to the Pacers as President of Basketball Operations. One of his first moves in his new capacity was to fire Thomas and hire Carlisle to coach the team.