|Larry Bird at Indiana State statue dedication: ‘Boston has the best sports fans I’ve ever seen’||11.13.13 at 2:30 pm ET|
Larry Bird is quick to remind you he is only human. Incapable of any superpowers or magic, he promises, French Lick’s Larry Joe Bird’s talent is simply the product of a man who worked incredibly hard to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
“I was always told I wasn’t big enough or strong enough to compete against the best,” Bird said. “I heard it in high school, I heard it in college and I heard it in the pros, so I’d keep working harder. That’s what pays off. I guess things worked out pretty well.”
This past weekend, Indiana State University recognized Bird’s contributions to the game of basketball by unveiling his 15-foot bronze statue on campus outside ISU’s Hulman Center. While the day was tremendous for the Sycamores, the city of Terre Haute, and the basketball-crazed state of Indiana, Bird admitted that a big piece of his heart still belongs to Boston.
“Boston has the best sports fans I’ve ever seen,” Bird said. “They live it and breathe it. I was so honored to be able to put on a jersey and play at a place where they cared. One of the best lines I ever heard, I think it was in ’86 against Houston, and we were going into Game 6 [of the NBA Finals]. The crowd was absolutely going berserk, and this was an hour before the game. Some of the guys were still shooting before they came back into the locker room. One of them said, ‘I’m telling you, them fans want blood out there and they don’t care whose it is. We lose, and it’s our blood!’ And man, was he right, the place was rocking that night.”
Before the statue unveiling on Saturday morning, Indiana State first honored Bird with a “Larry Legend” scholarship dinner on Friday night. Hosted by Jackie MacMullan, the program was broken into four quarters focused on Bird’s career in high school, college and the NBA, and his time as a coach and an executive as team president of the currently undefeated Pacers.
Bird’s statue was unveiled a week after the city of Boston recognized Bill Russell with his own monument. As the two most famous Celtics of all time, Bird feels a connection to Russell, but he was quick to point out that, while both men wore the Celtics jersey for 13 seasons in their careers, only one earned 11 championship rings.
“If anybody deserves a statue, it’s Bill Russell,” Bird said. “We all looked up to him. He set the bar so high for all of us. He’s had such a great career and a lot of success. I’m really happy for Bill, not only for his statue, but for Bill the man. He’s a great man.”
The ceremony started with a look back at Bird’s roots with the game of basketball, a connection that now is more deeply intertwined than ever. Bird’s coach at Springs Valley High School, Jim Jones, served as a mentor, and Bird noted that lessons his coach taught him in 1970 still hold true today.
“Coach Jones spent a lot time with us as young kids and showed us how to play the game the right way,” Bird said. “He was telling us, no matter how long you stay out here or how many jump shots you shoot, there’s always somebody out there doing a little bit more. That guy in my life was Magic Johnson. Maybe that’s why he got the ring from the NCAA tournament back in 1979.”
|Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith grateful to be in Bill Russell’s inner circle||11.04.13 at 1:37 pm ET|
The city of Boston and the Celtics honored Bill Russell this past Friday, unveiling a 6-foot, 10-inch, 600-pound bronze statue of the 11-time NBA champion. Though the man has more championship rings than fingers, the ceremony detailed Russell’s work beyond basketball. For those in Russell’s inner circle — including Charles Barkley and Kenny “The Jet” Smith — the discussion was focused on Russell’s impact on society.
“Most of us are too young to have seen him play,” said Barkley. “But for guys like myself who got a chance to be around him, you see what a remarkable person he is. We know him more a man than a player.”
Barkley and Smith, who are teammates on TNT’s extraordinarily popular “Inside the NBA,” both consider themselves very fortunate to be friends with the legendary Russell.
“He don’t talk to many people,” said Barkley. “So if you get on the list, it’s pretty cool.”
Smith was drafted by the Kings in 1987 and played a half-season for Russell, who was in his final stint as a head coach.
“I was his first-ever draft pick,” said Smith. “I was overwhelmed meeting him. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know whether to call him ‘Coach Russell,’ ‘Bill,’ or ‘Mr. Russell,’ and then my assistant coach was Willis Reed. I was in heaven. He taught me what teamwork was all about, regardless of winning and losing.”
Smith, who emceed the ceremony, did not concentrate on Russell’s blocked shots or rebounds. He looks at him as a whole man, one who inspired people around the world and broke racial barriers. Smith thinks of the man who served as his mentor.
Russell’s greatest strength, in Smith’s words, is “his ability to take a basketball moment and relate it to a lifetime experience. Something that my teammates always thought was going to be a punishment for me — sitting next to coach Russell on the team bus — actually turned out to be the best moment of my life.”
Barkley laughed when recalling the story of Russell making Smith sit next to him on one of the Kings’ long bus rides. “Kenny said, ‘Why’ve I got to sit beside you?’ And Bill said, ‘Because that guy’s a loser, that guy’s a loser, that guy’s a loser, and I don’t want you sitting with them.’ ”
Said Smith: “I sat next to him, on a bus ride or a plane ride, four hours a day. And if I went to sleep, he’d nudge me and go, ‘Sleep nights, young fella. Listen to what I’m saying.’ And I listened to all those stories. It’s a great feeling to know I was part of that. Not being Satch Sanders or Tommy Heinsohn or any other great players who played with him, I feel like I’m one of those.”
|The Bill Russell Legacy Project, in their words||11.03.13 at 5:33 pm ET|
My words couldn’t possibly do justice to the stories shared about one of our greatest Americans at Friday’s Bill Russell Legacy Project unveiling, so I’ll let theirs do the talking. A transcript of the video is provided below.
|A song for Bill Russell: ‘I Am My Father’s Son’||11.01.13 at 7:58 pm ET|
At the unveiling of the Bill Russell Legacy Project in Boston, Bill Withers wrote a song entitled, “I Am My Father’s Son,” that fellow Grammy Award-winning artist Johnny Mathis performed. It was amazing.
|Bill Russell took different route than Wesley Snipes||10.21.13 at 10:54 am ET|
Celtics legend Bill Russell issued an apology through The Boston Globe following his arrest for carrying a loaded .38 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun in his carry-on luggage when attempting to board a flight from his adopted home of Seattle to Boston, where he is scheduled to be honored with a statue at City Hall Plaza on Nov. 1.
“Before boarding my flight from Seattle to Boston, I had accidentally left a legal firearm in my bag. I apologize and truly regret the mistake,” he said. “I was issued a citation by the TSA, whose agents couldn’t have been more thorough and professional when dealing with this. I really appreciate their efforts to keep air travel safe.”
Probably a lot smarter than the Wesley Snipes route: “My instincts are to wax your ass all over this floor!”
|Celtics to unveil long overdue Bill Russell statue||10.16.13 at 5:36 pm ET|
The Celtics finally announced plans to unveil the long overdue Bill Russell sculpture designed by local artist Ann Hirsch in Boston City Hall Plaza on Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. — prior to the C’s home opener against the Bucks that night.
With Russell and his daughter Karen Kenyatta Russell in attendance, TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith will emcee the festivities, and the guest list is ridiculous.
There are the usuals: Celtics alumni Tommy Heinsohn, Sam Jones, JoJo White, Satch Sanders, Johnny Jones, Em Bryant, Togo Palazzi, Ronnie Watts, Rick Weitzman and Bill Walton; Celtics owners Stephen Pagliuca, Wyc Grousbeck and Bob Epstein; and team president Rich Gotham. NBA commissioner David Stern and his successor Adam Silver, Red Auerbach’s daughters Randy and Nancy, Celtics legend Jim Loscutoff’s wife Lynn and Warriors president Rick Welts are also expected to attend.
The giants of sport: NBA stars Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Clyde Drexler, George Gervin and Fred Brown; MLB greats Frank Robinson and Joe Morgan; and NFL legend Jim Brown.
The pop culture icons: musicians Johnny Mathis and Bill Withers, Pulitzer prize winners Isabel Wilkerson and Taylor Branch, four-time Emmy Award-winning actress Alfre Woodard and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy.
And politicians: former Senior Advisor to the President David Axelrod, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Congressman Joe Kennedy III and MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell.
In addition to the sculpture, featuring 11 elements to represent each of Russell’s championship rings, a legacy committee comprised of Russell’s daughter, Heinsohn, Menino, Pagliuca and Bobby Sager established a mentoring grant program in his honor that has already handed out $50,000 to programs in need.
“I am happy to see the Celtics embrace mentoring and create this program that benefits children,” Russell said. “My lifelong passion is to help the mentoring of children and the biggest honor of my career was to be captain of the Boston Celtics.”
A representation of the sculpture can be found on the artist’s website.
|Bill Russell: The Heat won two straight titles? Yawn||06.21.13 at 9:53 am ET|
“A thrilling Game 7 of the NBA Finals? Yawn.” — Celtics legend Bill Russell
Granted, Russell’s career Game 7 record is 10-0, so he’s the only man alive allowed to grow tired of an epic finale to a glorious Heat-Spurs series. That includes you, two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh. Yawn, indeed.
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