“Leadership is diving for a loose ball, getting the crowd involved, getting other players involved. It’s being able to take it as well as dish it out. That’s the only way you’re going to get respect.”
—Larry Bird, NBA Hall-of-Fame forward for the Boston Celtics
A true leader is about self-sacrifice. The greatest team leaders have one thing in common: the ability to make their teammates better. Leadership is more than scoring points. It’s about setting up your teammates during games, and helping them amp up their game in practice, any way possible. True leaders lead, meaning they act in ways that set an example. They always out-hustle their opponents.
Before putting on a Celtics jersey, Larry Bird knew what it meant to be a team leader. In high school, “the Hick from French Lick” led his small-town team by example, practicing for hours every day. Bird could often be found in the gym before the school’s morning announcements, between classes and late into the evening—always working to perfect his shot and refine his talent.
While playing college ball at Indiana State University, Bird took a middle-of-the-road team and led them to the 1979 NCAA Finals, the first in school history. That season, he averaged 28.6 points and 14.9 rebounds per game. The Sycamores finished with a 33–1 record, losing in the title game to Michigan State and Bird’s soon-to-be professional rival, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Bird was voted College Player of the Year by the Basketball Writers Association, and he won both the Naismith and Wooden Awards, given to the top male college basketball player.
“Larry Legend” went on to make a name for himself with the Boston Celtics. A sharpshooter who could be counted on to step up his game in critical situations, Bird specialized in clutch defensive plays and brilliant buzzer-beaters. In his 13 seasons with the Celtics, the versatile forward scored 21,791 points, hauled down 8,974 rebounds and dished out 5,695 assists. Averaging a career double-double (24.3 ppg, 10 rpg), he won three NBA Championships (’81, ’84, ’86), two Finals MVPs (’84, ’86) and three regular season MVP awards (’84-’86).
Not too shabby for a small town guy who always led his team in hard work and dedication.
Read STACK’s article on Larry’s early life at http://magazine.stack.com/TheIssue/Article/4231/larry_birds_early_days.aspx
Photos: markojordan.com, espn.go.com