Of course, Larry’s not the only world-class athlete to come out of French Lick, Indiana. There’s…Uh…Okay, Larry Bird is the only world-class athlete to come out of French Lick, Indiana.
I’m going out on a limb and say that Bird is the most complete basketball player of all time. He excelled in all phases of the game – scoring, passing, rebounding, defense. Michael Jordan scored more and was certainly the greatest clutch player ever; others dominated one phase or another. But Bird could do it all. And he was the kind of fierce competitor who could put his team on his back and carry them to championships.
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Look at his college experience, for example. He took Indiana State to the NCAA championship game. Indiana State hasn’t come close before or since. He had talent playing with the Boston Celtics in the NBA, but to demonstrate his impact, the Celtics went from 29-53 the year before he joined to the league’s best record of 61-21 his rookie season.
Bird won the Naismith Award for college player of the year. His Celtics won three NBA titles. He was the NBA MVP three times. Of course, he’s in the Basketball Hall of Fame. And he won the 3-point shooting contest three times.
Speaking of the 3-point contest, Bird never had any lack of self-confidence. The story is that he entered the locker room before the 1986 contest, and didn’t say a word. He just waited till he had everyone’s attention, then said, “I want all of you to know I am winning this thing. I’m just looking around to see who’s gonna finish up second.” And he went out and won. Here are more examples:
Here’s an oldie but goody: Q. Who was the only person who could hold Michael Jordan to under 30 points per game? A. Dean Smith. Oh, the old jokes, they just never stop bringing a chuckle.
By now you know that Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team as a sophomore. We don’t know that coach’s name, so we can’t make fun of him as we do Dean Smith. We can only say he ranks as one of the worst judges of athletic talent in sports history.
Jordan went from his hometown of Wilmington, NC to the University of North Carolina. All he accomplished his freshman year was to become ACC Rookie of the Year and make the winning shot in the national championship game. After winning the Naismith and Wooden Player of the Year awards as a junior, he entered the NBA draft.
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He was chosen third in the first round of the draft. So we can induct two more coaches into our talent scout Hall of Shame.
Simply, Michael Jordan is the greatest player in the history of basketball. He did everything not just well, but extraordinarily well. He won six NBA titles, and was incredible in the clutch. Five MVP awards. Defensive Player of the Year. Slam Dunk Contests. He was selected ESPN Male Athlete of the Century. I maintain that honor should have belonged to Babe Ruth, but they didn’t ask me. (Yes, they should have.)
It’s a good thing he tried to become a Major League Baseball player. His failure in the minor leagues showed that he was, in fact, human.
Today’s video: Some of the greatest plays ever by the greatest player ever:
Copyright 2009-2011, Robin G. Chalkley. All material on these pages, and the listing of items as Great American Things, is copyrighted. The exceptions are the photographs and videos, which remain the property of their respective owners.
Header photo used courtesy of Flickr photographer too melo.