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Source: Celtics.com

There are many Celtics Legends, but there is only one man whose nickname actually is Legend. Larry Bird might be the most well-known Celtics player of all time, and his incredible career led to him being dubbed with an iconic nickname: Larry Legend.

Bird’s legend began long before he arrived in Boston. He was born on Dec. 7, 1956 in West Baden, Ind. Located in the southwest portion of Indiana, West Baden and nearby French Lick were the cities where Bird turned himself from a young boy into a basketball phenom.

He attended Spring Valley High School and experienced successs from the very beginning. Legend has it that Bird would use every minute of his down time, including time between classes, to practice his skills in the school’s gymnasium. That work ethic helped him become the school’s all-time leading scorer. It also drew much attention from the collegiate level, where Bird was sought after as a top-level recruit.

Bobby Knight and the heralded Indiana Hoosiers won the recruiting war for Bird as the 6-foot-9 star moved from high school to college. However, Bird quickly realized that the atmosphere at Indiana University was not for him. He dropped out of IU less than a month after he arrived on campus. He returned home to French Lick for a year before enrolling at Indiana State University, which is about one-quarter of the size of Indiana University.

His collegiate career may have gotten off to a rocky start, but all the man needed to do was find his niche. He did exactly that at Indiana State, and the rest is history.

The school was put on the map thanks to Bird’s presence. He lifted the basketball program to the 1979 NCAA championship game despite the fact that the Sycamores had never reached the NCAA tournament prior to Bird’s arrival. Indiana State lost to Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans in the title game, dropping the Sycamores’ record to 33-1, but that certainly does not diminish Bird’s or his team’s accomplishments. To this day, Bird remains the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,850 points and a career average of 30.3 PPG.

National media outlets paid homage to Bird for his stellar career by awarding him seven separate national player of the year awards, including the prestigious Naismith and Wooden awards.

Oddly enough, all of those awards were reeled in while the Boston Celtics already owned Bird’s professional rights. The franchise drafted Bird sixth overall in 1978 without having assurances that he would forego his final two seasons at Indiana State. Bird wound up returning to school for his junior season, but the Celtics retained his rights for one year. That was enough time for Bird to string together one of the most successful collegiate seasons ever before signing with the C’s in 1979.

Boston became Bird’s home away from home for the next 13 years. He donned green and white for all 13 of his NBA seasons and became one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time.

His success in the NBA began immediately. Bird averaged 21.3 PPG and 10.4 RPG during his rookie season, helping to lead the Celtics to a 61-21 record in 1979-80. The 61 wins were 32 more than the Celtics accumulated during the prior season. One season later, Bird put up 21.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG and 5.5 APG and helped Boston win its first NBA championship since 1976.

The 1981 World Championship was the first of three that Bird would win during his illustrious career. The final two, obtained in 1984 and 1986, featured Finals MVP performances by Bird. He averaged 27.4 PPG and 14.0 RPG during the 1984 Finals victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and 24.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 9.5 APG during the 1986 victory over the Houston Rockets.

Bird was a fantastic postseason player, but his regular-season accomplishments were just as great. He scored more than 20.0 PPG in 11 of his 13 NBA seasons, finishing with a career average of 24.3 PPG. He also finished with an average of 10.0 RPG during his career, helping him to reach the rare accomplishment of averaging a double-double for an entire career. Perhaps most impressive of his accomplishments, Bird racked up an astounding 69 triple-doubles during his career. That number, which is far and away the most in Celtics history, showcases how great Bird was in all aspects of the game. Those skills led to him winning three consecutive MVP awards from 1984 to 1986.

Unfortunately for Bird, the NBA and all of the league’s fans around the world, his career was cut short due to a long list of injuries. He struggled with debilitating back problems during the latter part of his career and those issues were the main reason why he announced his retirement on Aug. 18, 1992. That announcement came shortly after he participated in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as part of the famous gold-medal winning Dream Team. Following his retirement, the Celtics retired Bird’s No. 33 jersey on Feb. 4, 1993.

Although Bird’s career ended early, he was able to fill his basketball void by becoming an executive in the NBA for the majority of the next 20 years. He began his career as an executive with the Celtics in 1992, where he served as a special assistant.

After five seasons in that role, he was offered the head coaching position with the Indiana Pacers in 1997. Bird accepted that offer and went on to become the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 1998. He led the Pacers to the playoffs in all three of his seasons as a head coach, including a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals.

Bird took a few seasons off before returning to the Pacers in 2003 as President of Basketball Operations. Under that role, Bird would have the final say on all basketball matters. Bird slowly rebuilt the Pacers into a contender and the team won 42 games during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season. He was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year that season, becoming the first person to ever win an NBA MVP award, an NBA Coach of the Year award and an NBA Executive of the Year award. Following Bird’s successful 2011-12 season with the Pacers, he decided to step away from the organization and enjoy retirement.

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