Larry Bird has had a remarkable career in the NBA, but it wasn’t until he became the highest-paid rookie in NBA history that he became public enemy No. 1 among some fans. Fans were upset that Bird’s contract was so large, and many called him a “bleepin’ cheapskate” for not getting a better deal. What they didn’t realize is that Bird was never worried about the money.
In the NBA, Larry Bird was the first player to make it to the league’s superstardom level, and became one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. He was also the highest-paid rookie ever, as he signed a $110 million deal with the Boston Celtics back in 1980. Fast forward to the present, when Bird played his last game at the age of 53, and his wife told the press that he “never gave up.”
Larry Bird is a basketball legend. He’s been called the best power forward ever, and his 13 MVPs are the all-time record. He’s the only player to ever win the MVP as a rookie, and he’s won the most championships of any player in NBA history.
Larry Bird entered the NBA under close scrutiny. He was a touted rookie from a small town who had played for a tiny school and was looking to make a splash in a major NBA market. The Boston Celtics were under pressure to return to contention.
There was no pressure on Bird. He just received a rookie contract for $650,000 per year, making him the highest-paid rookie in league history. He was simply a regular person who liked basketball.
The Boston Celtics and Larry Bird had a tense discussion.
During the NBA Finals in June 1987 at The Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics dribbles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Focus on Sport)
Bird was selected sixth overall in the 1978 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. He stayed at Indiana State University since he and the team couldn’t come to an agreement. Bird led the Sycamores to the national championship game, where they faced Magic Johnson and Michigan State.
The Celtics negotiated with Bird during the first half of 1979, knowing that if they couldn’t reach an agreement, he would be permitted to re-enter the 1979 draft. Bird’s agent, Bob Woolf, reportedly proposed $1 million per year, but Red Auerbach and the Celtics responded with half that.
Auerbach remarked at the time, “It’s been proved.” “A cornerback can’t win a game by himself. A large guy, sometimes even a guard. But one guy playing a corner isn’t going to be enough to turn a franchise around.”
“I’m simply from a little town, so it doesn’t matter where I play,” Bird said.
Larry Bird’s understated demeanor during talks with the Boston Celtics revealed his real colors.
Bird has never been one to take center stage. It’s something he’s never desired. As a rookie, he also didn’t want to be a part of the negotiating process. Bird’s only goal was to go to the next level of basketball.
During a visit to Boston in April 1979, Bird went to a Celtics game with his then-girlfriend Dinah Mattingly. He saw the club lose for the eighth time in a row in front of a half-empty Boston Garden. That year, just one game at the Garden was sold out.
Bird remarked at the time, “I can understand why people don’t want to watch pro basketball.” “Neither do I. It isn’t thrilling.”
Negotiations began to heat up at that point. If a deal could not be reached, Boston risked losing Bird in a matter of months. It didn’t bother Bird when the contract was finalized at $650,000 per year, making him the highest-paid rookie in NBA history, and he was headed to one of the largest markets in the league.
Pressure? What kind of stress are you under?
He said, “If I fail, I fail.” “I’ve previously failed courses. “I know how you feel.”
Bird has always performed well under duress.
It was as though Bird didn’t understand what pressure meant. Perhaps he didn’t.
He grew raised in an impoverished family. Bird’s father committed suicide while he was in his late teens. Bird has gone through a lot more than just basketball. Basketball was enjoyable, despite the fact that he would be the focus of attention in Boston.
Bird was a master at dealing with life. He was instrumental in resurrecting the Celtics as an NBA contender. He won three NBA championships and three MVP awards in a row.
Bird has always wished for success. Throughout his NBA career, he stayed the same. The beauty of it all is that Bird has stayed the same despite his wealth and celebrity.
“In high school, I never worried about college, and in college, I never thought about the pros,” he added. “I couldn’t have cared less when the Celtics selected me.”
Larry is Larry, after all.
When Larry Bird was approached for autographs, he used to sign another superstar’s name.
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