Image: 020128bird_vmed.jpg
Larry Bird as head coach of the Indiana Pacers watches his team against the Los Angeles Lakers in game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals.
By Producer
msnbc.com
CHAT TRANSCRIPT

In all of sports there are few athletes more universally loved, admired and respected than Larry Bird. On February 6th, chatters on MSNBC.com had the opportunity to talk to the legendary player and hear his thoughts on his years as a student, a player, a coach, and an Olympian. Bird took chatters’ questions over the phone and his answers were relayed by a typist conferenced in on the call trasncribed below. Chat producer Will Femia moderates.

MSNBC-Will Femia: Welcome Mr. Bird

Question from e. cohen: Do you miss being intensly involved in basketball and do you still play pick up games with friends?

Question from steven a. seiler: Since you left Coaching in the NBA do you miss that level of competition at this point in your life? How is your golf game?

MSNBC-Will Femia: What do you miss about it?

Larry Bird: Obviously the competition, I guess that’s one of the reasons most players play. To put your skills against other players day in and day out and see who’s got the best team or who’s the best athlete.

MSNBC-Will Femia: Did you have a problem not knowing what to do with yourself?

Larry Bird: Well, for over 20 years all I did in the mornings was catch a bus, go to school, catch a plane. It’s pretty hard to go from the type of life that I had to all of a sudden really not doing much of anything. It’s a big adjustment. Not only for me, but I think everyone’s been through it. It’s a tough situation but you try to find other things to keep you active.

Question from mel brown: My son, now playing for a JUCO, always tried to “emulate” your style Larry. Now my question is MJ made a comeback, how about you? You’re only as young as you feel. Maybe a comeback in the “coaching” game?

Larry Bird: No, I’m not interested in that at all. First of all I’m 30 pounds overweight and it would probably take me another 20 years to get into shape.

Question from Tim Wooddell: Are you still looking to purchase the Boston Celtics and return them to greatness?

Larry Bird: There was always something in my mind that said I wanted to get back to Boston and put a group together to buy the team. But the team’s not for sale, we’ve already been through that, so right now I think that’s a dead issue.

Question from Stuart from Brisbane, Australia: Dear Larry, My friend Scott and I are possibly your biggest fans in Australia. Your autobiography ” Playing and Coaching the Game I love” was an excellent read - congratulations. I was wondering if you were at all surprised that Michael Jordan made another return to playing in the NBA?

Larry Bird: Not really. I know he’s a very competitive person. Usually guys with a lot of downtime that are young and get out of the game too early have a tendency to fall back on what they do best. Obviously Michael Jordan is one of the best and he still feels that he has the ability to play and I think it was a very easy decision for him. All he had to do was get himself in top condition and try to make a comeback which he’s doing very well.

Question from scott Whitaker: Mr. Bird, as a part time resident of naples florida and a golf pro there, i was surprised to see that you won the club championship at windstar twice!! what is your handicap and what kind of clubs do you play? also, if you ever need a 4th give me a holler!!

Larry Bird: Tell Scott, if he’s surprised, that surprises me! I’ve played a long time, it’s another game that’s very competitive. I’ve belonged to Winstar for, I think, five years and got lucky and won a championship twice. My handicap stays around 5, and just like anyone else, some days I can play to it, some days I can’t.

Question from Rich Costner: Would he lave lunch with Rich Coster the next time he’s in NYC?

MSNBC-Will Femia: Larry, comments like this were not uncommon. Of all the people we’ve chatted with I’ve never seen so many offers of hospitality. Folks want to buy you drinks or have you stay over when you’re in town. Or like that last guy who wants to play golf with you. Are you close to your fans?

Larry Bird: I’m just God’s guest, everything’s free! Get a free meal here, staying at the Registry tonight. Tomorrow I’m going to play 18 holes, it’s an easy life! But I always felt I was close to my fans in Boston. I didn’t go to their house for dinner, but I think we had a good rapport when I played. I’ve still got a lot of fans and I appreciated it. Great offers.

MSNBC-Will Femia: And the lunch comes with the bidding in the auction right?

Larry Bird: If they’re hungry, I’ll buy ‘em lunch. If they want to have lunch and play a round of golf, the easiest way is to go through the “Link up with a Legend” program. It’s something I’m real happy to be working with through the Heinz Frozen Food Company and Boston Market Frozen Meals. We’re trying to generate donations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Get on the Heinz.com/BostonMarket to get all the details and find out how to register. That’s one way we can get people together. There’s going to be three people who play with me we’re going to have lunch and play golf and it should be a good time.

Question from Steven Chavez: Larry, as a great basketball shooter that you are, I wanted to know did someone show you your technique or did you come up with your own style of shooting?

Larry Bird: I was very fortunate as a young kid to have so many great people around me. I had older brothers who played sports. I think the one guy who influenced me to shoot the way I shot for years was one of my high school coaches, Jim Jones. He spent a lot of times with not only be but the other kids on the playground. He taught us the fundamentals and I had an opportunity as I got older to play for him. So I give him a lot of credit, he sort of developed our work ethic, and he’s just a great guy and sort of a father figure. So I have to give him a lot of credit over the years that he’s the one that… not only my shooting, but my total game.

Question from Rich: Conceptually, has basketball changed for you from a game you played as a kid to a “big business”. If yes, when did it happen? Do you think it happens for most athletes?

Larry Bird: Not at all. It was always a game to me. When I was in high school, all I wanted to do was to play high school ball. I really didn’t want to go to college until later on. Probably at the end of my senior year of high school I decided I wanted to take my basketball a bit further. I had the opportunity to get a full scholarship. Once in college, that’s all I was worrying about, playing basketball and getting a degree. Then I had an opportunity to go pro. One of the greatest things in life for me was to be able to play what I loved dearly and get paid for it. So it was always a game to me and that’s how I perceived everything.

Question from Jackson: Do you follow College Basketball as well the NBA? If so, Does March Madness equate to the NBA finals? You played in both the Championship of college and NBA, Looking back which was more exciting, the one game on the brink of elimination of college, or the take the best 4 of 7 sluggfest of the NBA?

MSNBC-Will Femia: I’d like to add to that list of comparisons the pursuit of Olympic gold.

Larry Bird: Like I said earlier, when I was in college that’s all I thought about, college basketball. So that was the most important thing at the time. Then, when I got the NBA, obviously that was the most important thing in my life at that time. But I think anytime you’ve got an opportunity to play for your country and win a gold medal, I think that takes it all. That’s the greatest thing you could ever achieve in your sport. So, I have been very fortunate to play on great teams, but the gold medal was probably the best.

Question from Michael King: Your effort, drive and dedication during your playing and coaching careers were tremendous examples to all of your fans- Thank You. What did you accomplish during your professional career that surprised you the most?

Larry Bird: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. Off the top of my head I’d have to say being able to put 12 guys together and everyone striving for the same goal, and that’s to win a championship. That’s very important. Coaching and playing are completely different. I was very proud to have an opportunity to coach in Indianapolis with the Indiana Pacers and make it to the NBA finals. That was a dream for me to be able to get back to the finals. As a player we got there as a player 5 times and as a coach once. It was a long time in between, but to be able to make the NBA finals as a coach was very uplifting.

Question from Jylmcd: How do you think pro basketball has changed since you played?

MSNBC-Will Femia: We got a lot of variations of that question: teams, players, money, style, etc.

Larry Bird: Well, there’s a lot more tattoos now than there were when I played. But other than that, I think it’s basically the same game. Everyone talks about the money but they were doing that back when I came into the league too. The game has changed somewhat because there’s not as many big men as there were back when I came in the league, as far as 7 footers, 7’2” guys. We have some in our league now but it seems like it’s few and far between. But as far as the game, I think it’s basically the same game, the same type of athletes. There’s no question every 20 years athletes get a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, and can jump a little bit higher but I think basically it’s the same game.

Question from Tom Ryder: Larry, When the pressure was on and you were coming out of the huddle and preparing to take a last second shot to win a game, what were the things that you were saying to yourself to control your nerves? How did you control your brain from celebrating too early? Your hand from not following through and pulling the shot? I believe the same preparation coming out of the huddle can be used on the golf course or any other pressure situation. Did you have a specific phrase that you used...what was it. I would love to know. Let me know about your charity event. I would like to attend. Thanks for the incredible adrenaline rushes I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Larry Bird: Everyone is a little different. You see some guys get tense, some guys relax more. But in my case I think it’s just through repetition because before every game I went out and shot the same shots over and over and over. In the summer time I spent a lot of time just shooting. So really it just came natural. Whether it’s a tie game or down by 1 or up by five, it was always the same shot. So I always felt comfortable with the ball in my hands because it was in there a million times before. So I always felt relaxed in that situation. A lot of guys get tense. Some guys go to the free throw lines and shake a little bit. In my case I just felt a calmness over me and was able to make some.

Question from Michael Harrington: As a living legend whose shot was one of the purest ever, what do you think of Dirk Nowitzki’s jump shot? He seems to lean back a little more rather than go straight up the way you used to, but do you see parallels in the

Question from Luke: Mr. Bird, How do you feel about Dirk Nowitzki’s game and potential as well as the comparisons that have been made of you two?

Larry Bird: I’m very honored to have him compared to me. We’re similar in some ways and in other ways we’re not. I’ve seen Dirk play in high school. He had a lot of talent at the time and he played very well. There was no question at that time that he was going to be a great player in our league. Over the last three or four years he’s gotten bigger and stronger. I think they compare us because we’re similar in height and we got basically the same type of shots. We both can go inside or out.

Question from ComeToBoston: YES/NO question for Larry Bird: Does the New England Patriots winning the SuperBowl fuel any desire for you to come back to the Boston Celtics in some capacity?

MSNBC-Will Femia: Is there something about Boston sports that’s different?

Larry Bird: Well, especially the Celtics. Yes, I will always have a desire to come back to Boston, there’s no question about that.

Question from Bryan Griffith: Hello Larry, I’ve been an admirer of your basketball prowess throughout your entire career, even though I’m a NY Knicks fan (smile). I am a HS boys basketball coach and I would like to know what is your favorite or best shoot or best shooting drill (perimeter)?

Larry Bird: I like drills that have repetition in them. Like have a rack of balls, about 8 or 10 balls, and 2 guys stand there just thowing them to me and shoot off the move. I just like repetition drills, it’s something to keep you active. Within 60 seconds you can get off about 35-40 shots. If you do that 10-15 times a day I think it will improve your shooting.

Question from Moving_On6: Larry who defended you the Best in the NBA

Larry Bird: Michael Cooper.

Question from Lurid_Pizza: Have you ever seen an entire WNBA game?

Larry Bird: Yes. (laughing)

MSNBC-Will Femia: Did you enjoy it?

Larry Bird: Yes. I think the girls are better than the boys.

Question from Louis Kokernak: Hi Larry, As a player, did game film play a strong role in your off-the-court preparation for important games? Also, would the private jets that convey todays teams have prolonged your career?

Larry Bird: Yes. Game tape was very important even back in the early 80’s. Usually the coach watches the tape. Bill Fitch used to watch it 3 or 4 times. But we always sat down and watched it too. Even at home I watched a lot of game tapes. Not necessarily against the team that we’re going to play but it was better for me to know where my teammates were, and just watching their reaction to certain plays we ran because even though a lot of times people would say, “Oh, how’d you see that guy?” or “How’d you know he was there?” Well, when you run plays and you watch your teammates over a period of 3 or 4 years, you know he’s supposed to be in a certain spot at a certain time. It was a lot easier dishing the ball to him, especially when you see their man coming to double team. So watching tape was very important.

Then, when I got into coaching that’s basically all we did for 10 or 12 hours a day, watch tape, break down tape on your opponents. Not necessarily for your team. So it’s a little different. As a player I watched it on our team, and as a coach I watched it on the opponents.

Question from Karim Telfer: Hello Larry Bird, I am a HS senior and I play for South Shore HS boys basketball team, I would like to ask your opinion on developing an attitude to take a game over as you have done so many times in your career...

Larry Bird: First of all you have to have the ability to do that. And second of all sometimes you have to sit back and let the game come to you. It’s a lot easier to take a game over if everything is in a flow. I mean if you’re able to move, pass, and shoot very freely, it’s a lot easier to let the game come to you instead of you going out and trying to force things.

MSNBC-Will Femia: Is there a charisma element to it all?

Larry Bird: No, there’s a talent level to it all. I think you have to work very hard and dedicate yourself and have the respect of your teammates before you’re about to go out and just try to take a game over by yourself.

Question from Claire: Larry, I went Warsaw High School with Steve Reed, your former team mate at ISU. Do you stay in touch with your old teammates?

Larry Bird: Yeah, I see some of my college teammates in the summer time especially when we’re doing a fund raiser for the Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs of America. We’ve had the tournament for 18 years so every year or every other year I see most of the guys because they come and they donate their time for the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Question from Bob Bartholomew: What NBA team do you think has the best chance of keeping the Lakers from 3-peating this year?

Larry Bird: I think all their competition is in the west. I think Dallas has a pretty good chance. Truthfully I don’t think there’s anyone who can give them a real run for their money unless they have injuries. I think they’re so dominant. Dallas… if Portland every gets it put together they have a lot of talent. There’s some good teams out west but I don’t think anyone can top the Lakers.

Question from Sherry Arnold: Where do I bid on the lunch & golf outing? I have a friend who is a “Larry Bird” look-alike and also a fellow-Leo, that I would like to bid on this for. Please let me know when the auction opens & where I can link to it.

Larry Bird: I’m real happy to be working with Heinz Frozen food company and Boston Market frozen meals to generate donations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America through the “Link up with a Legend” program. Consumers can log onto Heinz.com/BostonMarket to get all the details on how to make their donations and register to win a lot of great prizes. They can also get more information on how to bid on eBay between February 6th and February 16th for a chance to win a trip to Florida for three to play a round of golf with me on my home course. In addition to all the donations raised by the “Link up with a Legend” program, the Heinz Frozen Food Company has guaranteed a matching donation of $10,000. So no only will a lot of winners have a great time here in Florida, an important children’s organization will be benefited as well. It’s a great project for me and Boston Market Frozen Meals to be involved in.

MSNBC-Will Femia: Larry, do you promise to let the highest bidder beat you at golf?

Larry Bird: Beat me? No! (laughing) No. I can’t do that yet, maybe next year.

MSNBC-Will Femia: Thanks a lot Larry I appreciate you taking this time with us. This was great.

Larry Bird: Thank you Will.

Question from Bruce Jones: Larry, Thanks for the terrific memories. I’m from Brockton (friend of Marty Bloom’s), but live elsewhere now. You and the rest of the Celtics were fabulous to watch. Those great series against 76ers and Lakers back then were incredible. Thank you for the way you played the game. Good luck in all that you do.

Question from tom severo: Larry, you were the greatest! thanks, a Celtics fan

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