When My Father Discussed Larry Bird, “It was such a joy to hear

Larry Bird’s jumper was first seen up close at the Omni pregame shootaround in December 1984. Larger and more fair-haired than in television, he scores with every stroke and flick. When you’re eight years old and straining on tiptoes, your father picks you up, places you on his shoulders, and puts his hands around your ankles. Swishes are not created equal. Some people swoon as though Bird has discovered a bull’s-eye inside a bull’s-eye.

Though your dad was raised in New Albany, Indiana, south of Bird, you both live in Atlanta as Hawks supporters. He had previously received training to be a professor, pastor, and lawyer; however, you are his audience rather than a church, court, or classroom. You both have Larry Bird in common. He tells you Bird’s box scores every morning, and the numbers fly by as you go about your classes. He adds this article of faith to our official record, tagging stories about Bird with the refrain that Larry Bird was once a garbage guy. A deity? Swish, swish, swush. A garbage man. Your father gives you enough of a squeeze to make an imprint on your body with every shot Bird takes at the Omni.

The bright light of your childhood, Bird, will always be there for you, even during your dad’s arguments and long stretches of stillness. Even on that December night in 1991, when everything pauses, turns around, and you find yourself staring at the stars from a pavement, this is true. You had to go somewhere that the father cannot follow, so he was unable to catch you at that time. Beyond Bird, your dad referred to the unfinished business that is America. You didn’t want to learn that lesson. It needed to be seen.

You didn’t want to learn that lesson. It needed to be seen. to view the entire floor. To remember the former best athlete in the history of the sport, who married to become a garbage man after just 24 hours at Indiana University. You desired no instruction. You wanted to take your old man down one-on-one, but he would not give up no matter what the weather or the situation.

 

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