Larry Bird The Hick From French Lick

February 23, 2012 by staff 

Larry Bird The Hick From French Lick, Larry Joe Bird (born December 7, 1956) is a former American NBA basketball player and coach. Drafted into the NBA sixth overall by the Boston Celtics in 1978, Bird started at small forward and power forward for thirteen seasons, spearheading one of the NBA’s most formidable frontcourts that included center Robert Parish and forward Kevin McHale. Due to chronic back problems, he retired as a player in 1992.

Bird was voted to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996 and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998. He served as head coach of the Indiana Pacers from 1997 to 2000. In 2003, he assumed the role of president of basketball operations for the Pacers, which he currently holds.

Larry Bird was born in West Baden, Indiana, the son of Georgia (née Kerns) and Claude Joseph “Joe” Bird. He grew up in both West Baden and the adjacent town French Lick, which earned him the nickname “the Hick from French Lick” in his professional basketball career. Bird recalled how his mother would make do on the family’s meager earnings: “If there was a payment to the bank due, and we needed shoes, she’d get the shoes, and then deal with them guys at the bank.

I don’t mean she wouldn’t pay the bank, but the children always came first.” According to Bird, his being poor as a child “motivates me to this day”. He sometimes was sent to live with his grandmother due to the family’s struggles. The Bird family’s struggle with poverty was compounded by the alcoholism and personal difficulties of Joe Bird, who likely suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from serving in the Korean War. Joe Bird committed suicide on February 3, 1975, when Larry was 18 years old.

By the time he was a high school sophomore, Bird had become one of the better basketball players in French Lick. He started for French Lick/West Baden’s high school team, Springs Valley High School, where he left as the school’s all-time scoring leader. Bird’s high school coach, Jim Jones, was a key factor to Bird’s success. “Jonesie”, as Bird called him, would come help Bird and his friends practice any day of the week. Bird would often go to the gym early, shoot between classes, and stay late into the evening. He quit both football and baseball to focus on basketball.

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