In what may be his final season, Boston’s Larry Bird, a player for the ages, wins Red Auerbach’s vote—beating out Bill Russell—as the best ever.

The small Indiana farm boy had a dream that kept coming back to him. In it, he finds a million dollars in cash. He hides it beneath the front porch, where he dug a hole for it. His elder brothers are just above him, going up and down the stairs, but he is so silent that they are unaware that his younger brother is down there with a million dollars in cash. The man who was the little kid claims, “I had that same dream all the time—over and over and over and over.”

 

Many adult males have other dreams. They play Larry Bird in it. It’s as plausible to think you’re Larry Bird as it is to think you’ve struck gold. Although Larry Bird is 6’9″, he doesn’t appear very tall—nor is he any taller than the other tall players on the court. And he doesn’t seem all that great. He lacks slickness. He lacks speed. He appears to be unable to lift his feet off the ground. He writes pushshots from a bygone period. He’s white, a throwback in time.

 

Larry Bird, though, is not a bright future star. Anyone who believes that is missing Larry Bird’s point. Even though Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins are intelligent, diligent athletes, little white boys today would much rather grow up to be them. They have flight. However, the most common thing youngsters do when they try to imitate Larry Bird is just reach down and rub their hands on the bottom of their sneakers. Larry Bird is just Larry, even with a last name that begs for a cheeky moniker.

 

Larry. He appears to be the culmination of small details; he is somewhat smarter than you and me, slightly more committed, slightly more skillful with his shot, slightly better with… but definitely nothing extraordinary. Larry Bird is similar to the first time you learn fractions and you have to convert everything to twelve tenths (twelve!), so you can add up the thirds, fourths, sixths, and so on. It’s clear that every other outstanding player is a whole number.

 

 

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