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A Player For The Ages
Frank Deford
March 21, 1988
Boston's Larry Bird, in what may be his finest season, gets Red Auerbach's vote—over Bill Russell—as the best ever
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March 21, 1988

A Player For The Ages

Boston's Larry Bird, in what may be his finest season, gets Red Auerbach's vote—over Bill Russell—as the best ever

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Oh well, that's just Larry.

In basketball this sort of mischievousness takes on the bold edge of bravado. The story of Bird walking into the locker room before the three-point shoot-out at the 1986 All-Star Game and snorting that all the other bozos were playing for second place (which they were) is now a legend. He has said that he wouldn't know half the players in the league if they didn't wear their names on their shirts. Bird has also been known to saunter up behind some poor kid standing at the free throw line late in a close game and whisper, "I know you're going to blow these two."

He kids his teammates, too. He regularly rags the other Celtics by telling them that he's writing a book entitled Game Winners, and it's almost up to a thousand pages long, but he wishes at least one of them could make it on at least one lousy page.

"Nothing he says is malicious," says Quinn Buckner, who was Bird's teammate for three seasons. "He's certainly not jealous—of your skills or your finances or anything. And everybody who knows Larry understands how well he understands people—so it doesn't take much to appreciate how well intentioned he is."

Bird has always been remarkably honest. He lays it all out plain, and no amount of cajoling will get him to reconsider his priorities. Bird was once offered $25,000 to make a brief appearance at a bar mitzvah being held only a block from his suburban Boston house and rejected it out of hand. One day a couple summers ago Dinah called him inside because Woolf was on the phone with some important business.

"I have three things, Larry," Woolf began. "Derek Bok, the president of Harvard, would like you to address the freshman class this fall."

"No."

" SPORTS ILLUSTRATED wants you to pose for a cover."

"No."

"Life magazine wants to do a photo essay on you, but you won't have to pose. The photographer will...."

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