Happy 55th B-day to “The Hick from French Lick”. Born in West Baden, Indiana on December 7th, 1956, Bird was a standout basketball player in high school and received a full scholarship to go play for Bob Knight the University of Indiana in 1974. However, after only 24 days on campus, Bird left Indiana and went back to French Lick. Bird was persuaded to give school another shot in 1976 by Bob King, the basketball coach at Indiana State University. The smaller campus would prove to be a much better personality fit for him. Indiana State had never appeared in the Division 1 NCAA tournament, but in his senior year, Bird led the Sycamores to a #1 rank in the tournament. Indiana State would eventually lose to the Magic Johnson led Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 NCAA Championship game. Despite the loss in the National Championship game, Bird would be selected as the USBWA, the Naismith and the John R. Wooden College Player of the Year awards.
After his senior year, Bird was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 6th overall pick. Just like at Indiana State, his impact on the Celtics was immediate. The season before Bird’s arrival, the team finished 29-53. Led by the rookie Bird, the Celtics would finish the 79-’80 season 61-21. Bird played 13 seasons, all with the Celtics, in the NBA. He won 3 NBA Championships, 3 NBA MVP awards (consecutively from ’84-’86) and 9 All-NBA First Team awards. His career was cut short with chronic back issues in 1992, but not before winning a Gold Medal for Team USA in the ‘1992 Summer Olympics. His #33 Celtics jersey is one of twenty-one jerseys retired by the team. Bird was also selected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1998.
After his retirement, Bird would accept the Head Coaching position with the Indiana Pacers and again his impact would be immediate. In his rookie coaching campaign, he would coach the Pacers to a 58-24 record (the best record in franchise history at the time) and would win the Coach of the Year award. After 3 seasons as the Head Coach, Bird resigned and made the transition to President of the Pacers, a position he still holds today.