Larry Bird’s Life Is Much More Than Being An NBA Legend

Athletes | 9/27/22

NBA legend Larry Bird is a three-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics and is one of the greatest shooters ever, but he struggled through life along his journey to the NBA.

Here is an overlook of Bird’s life, on and off the court.

“The Hick From French Lick”

For Larry Bird, growing up in West Baden, Indiana, with a population of 2,000 people, called for him to be a fighter.

Larry Bird and local children
Joseph Runci/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Joseph Runci/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Bird was born the fourth of six children.

Larry’s Childhood Was Not Hall of Fame-Worthy

Bird grew up with his siblings and parents, Georgia and Joe. The couple stayed married until their divorce while Larry was in high school.

Larry Bird's childhood home
Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Larry’s father worked in factories before his unfortunate passing.

Larry Struggled With His Parents Divorce

The Bird family struggled before their divorce, with Joe often having to repair the home himself.

Larry Bird at Indiana State
Getty Images/Archives
Getty Images/Archives

For example, Larry and his family would have to stand outside while his father attempted to fix their furnace. It was too smokey to stand indoors.

Bird Was About More Than Basketball In High School

In high school, Larry played many sports before choosing basketball.

Larry Bird's high school coach
Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Bird also enjoyed playing baseball and softball until he grew from 6′ 3″ his junior year to a 6′ 7″ senior.

Larry Bird And His First Wife Janet Condra

Janet Condra met Larry, and they married after he left high school.

Larry Bird greeting fans
Tom Landers/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Tom Landers/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Condra and Bird had one child, a daughter named Corrie, before the couple’s marriage ended after less than a year.

Larry Bird: The Father

Learning from his parents’ work ethic, Bird did whatever he could to have enough money to raise his daughter Corrie.

Larry Bird
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Larry worked as a garbageman and helped maintain parks and roads.

Bird’s Struggles Off the Court Carried on to the Court

Losing his father and his own divorce were large contributors to Larry’s struggles at Indiana University.

Larry Bird and his Indiana State coach
Getty Images/Archives
Getty Images/Archives

Bird had issues adjusting to campus life and dropped out after only twenty-four days.

Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores

After Larry grew two more inches to 6’9″ and weighed 222lbs, he returned to college, attending Indiana State.

Larry Bird at Indiana State
Focus on Sport via Getty Images
Focus on Sport via Getty Images

The basketball team nicknamed the Sycamores and Bird went undefeated in 1979.

The Bird and Magic Johnson Rivalry Begins

The Sycamores run lasted until they met Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans for the 1979 N.C.A.A. basketball championship.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
Getty Images/Archives
Getty Images/Archives

Michigan State won 75-64, and Bird scored 19 points, shooting only 7-21.

Bird Almost Held Out Before Draft Day

On June 8th, 1979, the Boston Celtics drafted Larry Bird as the sixth overall pick in the first round.

Larry Bird on Draft day
Tom Landers/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Tom Landers/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Celtics’ GM Red Auerbach declared he would not pay Bird more than the average.

Even Before His Hall of Fame Career Began, Bird Was Game

Upon hearing Auerbach’s bold public statement, Larry and his agent decided that he should sit out.

Larry Bird
Getty Images/Archives
Getty Images/Archives

The plan was for Bird to finish his final collegiate year and play ball.

The Boston Celtics’ $3.25 Million-Dollar Man

The danger of Bird re-entering the draft a year later and going number one ultimately convinced Auerbach to sign Larry.

Larry Bird signing first contract
Getty Images/Archives
Getty Images/Archives

Auerbach signed Bird to a three-year, $3.25 million contract. He was going to play for the Celtics.

Larry Bird’s Second Wife Dinah Mattingly

Dinah Mattingly became Larry’s second wife when they were married in 1989.

f9cea873e0f642c6797eb2f5eb8710bc
Getty Images
Getty Images

The couple started dating after the end of his first marriage. The couple’s two children are adopted.

Dinah Mattingly, The “Older” Woman

Dinah is two years older than Larry, and this fact caused drama and controversy early on for the newlyweds.

Larry Bird and his family
Ray Tamarra/FilmMagic
Ray Tamarra/FilmMagic

Mattingly was born in 1954 and raised in Vigo County, Indiana.

A Career Cut Short

Bird had a stellar 13-year NBA career which was cut short by nagging injuries.

2018 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Larry guided the Boston Celtics to three NBA championships, winning Finals MVP in two of them.

Retirement

Injuries to Bird shortened what potentially could have been an even more legendary NBA career.

Larry Bird dealing with injuries
Frank O’Brien/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Frank O’Brien/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Larry had surgery on both of his heels, back issues, and other injuries before retiring.

Hall of Famer: Larry Bird

Neither Celtics fans nor GM Red Auerbach truly knew how great Bird would be.

Larry Bird Hall of Fame induction
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Bird was the NBA MVP for three consecutive seasons from 1984-1986 and a twelve-time All-Star in the league.

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers’ Rivalry

A rivalry that later became a friendship started in college between Bird and Magic, lasting for over twenty years.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in college
Getty Images/Archives
Getty Images/Archives

Johnson’s Lakers lost to Bird’s Celtics in the 1986 NBA Finals.

Larry Bird and the “Dream Team”

In 1992, Bird and Magic became teammates on arguably the greatest basketball team ever, the “Dream Team.”

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson Dream Team
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images/Archives
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images/Archives

Bird, Magic, and Michael Jordan guided Team U.S.A. to an easy gold medal at the Olympic Games.

Bird’s Last Game Was Not in the NBA

Bird played his last game as a member of the “Dream Team” in 1992.

Larry Bird Team USA Dream Team
David Madison/Getty Images
David Madison/Getty Images

After retiring, Larry joined the Boston Celtics front office as a basketball consultant for the team.

Introducing Head Coach Larry Bird

After leaving his consulting job with the Celtics in 1997, Bird entered the world of coaching.

Larry Bird Indiana Pacers' Head Coach
STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images
STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images

Bird returned to his home state of Indiana to coach the NBA Indiana Pacers.

Coach of the Year

Bird coached the Pacers for three seasons from 1997-2000 and was named NBA Coach of the Year in his rookie season.

Indiana Pacers' Head Coach Larry Bird
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Larry’s Pacers made it to the 2000 NBA Finals.

Mr. President, Larry Bird

In 2003, Bird became the Pacers’ president of basketball operations.

Larry Bird Pacers President
PATRICK LIN/AFP via Getty Images
PATRICK LIN/AFP via Getty Images

Bird excelled as president and was the 2012 NBA Executive of the Year. Bird retired as president in 2017.

Larry Bird Owns Many Records, But Only One Unique One

Bird owns a unique NBA record.

Larry Bird Lifetime Achievement Award
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Turner Sports
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Turner Sports

He was the only NBA Rookie of the Year, MVP, Finals MVP, All-Star MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.

Bird Had A Strained Relationship With 1st Daughter Corrie

Larry’s first marriage to Janet ended on bad terms, and his relationship with their daughter Corrie suffered because of it.

Larry Bird and his Jeep Renegade
Focus on Sport via Getty Images
Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Janet raised their daughter after they divorced without Larry’s help.

You Are the Father

Asking for a paternity test did not help Bird ease tensions between Janet and himself.

Larry and Dinah Bird at a funeral
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The paternity test confirmed that Corrie was indeed Larry’s child, but it barely affected him.

Corrie Still Struggles For Larry’s Attention

Larry’s only contribution to Corrie’s life was paying child support as part of the divorce requirements made with Janet.

Classic NBA
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

A bank account was set up for monthly withdrawals until Corrie turned 18.

Corrie Bird: “…I Still Have Hope That He Can Be A Part of My Life”

Corrie has been quite public about her disappointment over Larry’s lack of a relationship with her.

Larry Bird acceptance speech
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Turner Sports
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Turner Sports

Corrie has moved on but still remains hopeful for a relationship with Bird someday.

Larry’s Spotlight Was Not For Dinah

Dinah did her best to stay out of the limelight, but scandals and controversy would bring her back into it periodically.

Dinah Bird and daughter
Donna Ward/Getty Images
Donna Ward/Getty Images

Reports of Larry’s infidelity, which he denied, ran rampant.

Larry Bird: The $75 Million Dollar Man

As of 2022, Larry Bird has a net worth of $75 million. Dinah and Larry own several properties and luxury homes.

Larry Bird acknowledging crowd in Boston
Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images
Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Dinah herself has accumulated her own net worth from business ventures.