Next to Magic Johnson, Larry Bird is my favorite NBA player all-time.
Bird, who turned 56 yesterday, is credited by many, along with Johnson, his long-time hard court rival, for the growth and eventual globalization of the NBA.
Through sheer hardwork and passion for the game, Bird led the legendary Boston Celtics to three NBA championships (1981, 1984 and 1986), while winning the Most Valuable Player trophy three times in a 13-year professional career.
Bird has been a feared scorer since his college days with the Indiana State Sycamores during the 1970s, though his first-ever basketball clash with Johnson (Michigan State) in the US NCAA Finals signaled the beginning of a long-standing basketball rivalry that continued in the NBA.
Except for the 1983 and 1989 season, the rest of the decade 1980s was dominated by either the Lakers or the Celtics. The Lakers, led by Johnson along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, won the NBA title five times during that decade (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988).
The Detroit Pistons eventually ended the Lakers’ domination in 1989 as they swept Los Angeles, 4-0 in the Finals.
Bird has left a lasting basketball legacy that career that young players today can learn from – hard work, dedication for the game and passion – qualities that can serve as a strong foundation for a thriving basketball career.