Larry Bird says he wants his statue to be “taller” than Magic Johnson’s


larry-bird-pacersLarry Bird enjoyed taking a jab at longtime rival Magic Johnson on Tuesday night, IndyStar reported.

Bird said it’s only right that the statue Indiana State will unveil of him next weekend at Terre Haute’s Hulman Center is taller than Johnson’s statue outside Michigan State’s arena in East Lansing, Mich.

“It should be,” Bird said with a laugh.

Bird was serious about everything else surrounding the Nov. 9 unveiling of the 15-foot statue. He said he’s “sort of embarrassed” by the honor, even asking “why me?”

Of course, Bird knows why given the Sycamores’ dramatic undefeated run to the NCAA championship game against Johnson’s Spartans in 1979. That season not only changed Bird’s life; it changed college basketball.

The game, won by Michigan State, remains the highest-rated game in the sport’s television history.

“It was really the start of March Madness, and we played against a great team that night,” Bird said.

Bird will be honored the night before the statue unveiling at a scholarship-funding dinner at ISU. More than the accolades, Bird said he is looking forward to seeing many of his former teammates.

“It will be a good night,” he said. “(It was) definitely a special time. I remember almost every game. We had a lot of success there, especially my senior year.

“(I) had a lot of fun in Terre Haute. I always love to go back there, so it’s going to be special.”

Bird doesn’t expect to get emotional, in part because the retirement of his uniform is the ultimate honor for a basketball player. Besides, his career is already represented in a pair of sneakers near the statue of legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach outside Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall.

Bird’s statue, which was on display Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, was designed by Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe.

Bird declined to engage in a conversation about the Pacers erecting a statue of Reggie Miller, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and the face of the organization’s NBA era.

“I don’t want to put pressure on people right now for that, but down the road if they ever do it I’ll be the first one here,” he said.

Bird played his entire professional career for Boston, winning three NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVP awards. Due to chronic back problems, he retired as a player in 1992.

Bird was voted to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996 and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998. He played a total of 897 NBA games (starting 870), averaging 24.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 6.3 apg.

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