In our series on rising stars and how they were perceived, Larry Bird is a very different sort of story.
No one ever mistook him for a freakish athlete. He couldn’t jump that well, wasn't that fast and his physique never overwhelmed anyone.
Bird had a couple of key advantages though. First, although his feet weren’t fast, his hands were incredibly quick and his hand-eye coordination was off the charts. Second, he had a grasp of the game that few if any ever matched. And third, he was unbelievably tough-minded.
The funny thing is that it probably took Bird longer to realize how good he was than a lot of the people who pursued him. Originally signing with Bob Knight and Indiana, he left after a week or two, feeling out of place in Bloomington.
So he went back to French Lick and got a job on a garbage truck which he said he really enjoyed.
Before long, the coach at Indiana State, Bob King, sent his assistant Bill Hodges to persuade Bird to give college another try.
Bird did and Indiana State soared with him all the way to the 1979 national championship game where he lost to Magic Johnson for the first time.
He and Magic went on to reinvent the NBA and both were Hall of Fame members as soon as they were eligible.
This clip is from high school. It’s a very skinny Larry Joe we see here but the outlines of his greatness are unmistakable.
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