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Dear Larry BirdPosted Tuesday, August 7, 2012, at 9:07 AM
Is it OK to call you "Larry?" After all, everybody whose paycheck you don't sign calls you that.
There's something I've been hoping to ask since the 1992 Olympics. I picked you for my question when we first moved to Indiana in 1996, and someone said you were from this area. Somehow it seemed possible we'd run into each other along the way, but this never happened. With the Olympics going on, thought it would be a good time to get my question out there on the Internet in the hopes somebody would know how to get it to you.
You should know that I am not exactly a basketball aficionado. Played a lot of pick-up ball in my long ago youth, and have the cane to prove it. The only actual live NBA game I ever attended, though, featured Bob Pettit and Bob Cousy (you will know how long ago that was; everyone else will have to look it up). The only time I ever saw you "play" was in those McDonald's commercials with Michal Jordan (heard him say he was amazed that you never missed a shot).
We as a society tend to make superheroes of people in sports. Sometimes because they are such gracious losers, sometimes because of the way they play the game; but mostly because they hit the most homers, sink the most baskets, help their team win the most games. I do think the word "hero" is misapplied to such people. Better at what they do than others, yes; but, a hero? Perhaps it's sour grapes on my part, though. I've never been an athlete, never on a winning team, never known that kind of victory or personal triumph.
Because they are not as often called sport heroes, my question wouldn't be a fair one to ask a player who excelled in some non-glamorous, non-profitable sport (Badminton is an Olympic sport?). Their moment in the sun might well come only once in their life, with nothing of equal or lesser import with which to compare.
In regard to my question, on the other hand, your record in a very public and popular sport should give an excellent basis for comparisons. According to the NBA website Larry Bird was:
Elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1998); NBA champion (1981, '84, '86); NBA Finals MVP (1984, '86); NBA MVP (1984, '85, '86); Nine-time All-NBA First Team (1980-88); All-NBA Second Team (1990); All-Defensive Second Team (1982, '83, '84); NBA Rookie of the Year (1980); One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996); Olympic Gold medalist (1992).
This leads back to my question I've pondered these 20 years, which is really an opinion based on observations of athletes since Stan Musial played left field for the St. Louis Cardinals:
Of all the honors and accolades and awards an athlete can earn, would not the greatest of these be to stand on the podium to receive an Olympic Gold Medal, hear their nation's national anthem played, and know he or she is in that moment of time more than a sports hero -- they represent their country to the world?
David L Lewis is an observer and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached at email@example.com
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