December 7th is a day to remember the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, one of the most horrific tragedies ever inflicted upon our country. It is a day for reflection, not only for the men and women who lost their lives that day, but also for the many, many thousands who served and sacrificed for our country in the years following that attack in effort to save the world.
To the basketball community, December 7th has also come to represent something else over the decades. Today is a date that many in the basketball universe hold dear: On this day we observe the birthday of The Legend.
I write this as a die-hard Sixers fan, born and bred to despise all things green. And I really do, for the most part. Yet, I just could never, ever, find it in my heart to hate Larry Bird. I wanted to, I really did. Because I was supposed to. For the love of God, this was the heathen who put hands on the Good Doctor!
But I just couldn’t.
Maybe I took the cue from my Dad (also an ardent Philly fan who couldn’t bring himself to despise The Legend). Maybe even at an early age I somehow realized and respected Bird’s greatness. And obviously I’m assuming there were also lots of identity issues for me as a kid watching Bird (“Hey, this guy’s white, slow and can’t jump – just like me.”). There’s a reason that Chris Mullin is my favorite player of all-time. Most likely, it was a mix of all three.
What I can be absolutely sure of though, was the leap my adoration for Larry Bird took when I discovered the “Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend” video. God damn, this thing was an incredible find for me as a kid – 40+ minutes of Larry raining murder and talking sh*t, accompanied by wide-eyed first-hand accounts of his exploits from guys like Magic, Danny Ainge, Xavier McDaniel, Kevin McHale, and some amazing work from ML Carr.
My brother Ryan and I wore out our VHS copy; we knew every word and every story by heart (and can still recite them to this day). We would watch it before and after killing each other on the driveway hoop and whenever else we could find the time between school, practice and everything else that comes with being a kid.
Later, in college, the Bird video was resurrected among the hardcore basketball players I became friends with – “A Basketball Legend” was often what we had on while we were pre-gaming before heading out for the night (Larry inspires in many ways, my friends).
So on this, Larry Bird’s 56th birthday, take a look at clips of that movie. Many years later, it’s still amazing. Happy birthday, Larry.