The guy has done it all and it has seem to come so easily and naturally to him. God placed Larry Bird on this earth for one thing: basketball. Whether it was playing or just being a part of the game, Larry Bird has succeeded in all aspects of the game. The way the ball appeared almost destined to swish through the net every time he finished his lightning-quick release with a flick of his right wrist. The way he could suck a defender in while running the break, only to zip a no-look pass to a cutting Boston Celtics teammate for an easy bucket. The way he was able to relate to his Indiana Pacers players when he was a coach, pushing the correct buttons and placing them in winning positions, to the point where they reached the NBA Finals. The complexity of the executive’s chair proved far more difficult for Larry Legend to master, which may make his latest award in a career full of them that much more fulfilling. Bird was just named the NBA Exec. of the Year, making him the first and only person to be voted the NBA’s top Exec., Coach, and MVP.
“It was a long journey; it was a painful journey,” Bird told reporters in Indianapolis. “But now we think it’s going to pay dividends.” Bird was able to pick up an Indiana Pacers organization that had been a little down since the departure of legend Reggie Miller, and form them to what they are today, a contender. The three-time MVP and Hall of Famer received 12 first-place votes and 88 total points from a panel of team executives throughout the NBA. San Antonio’s R.C. Buford (56 points) finished a distant second, followed by Los Angeles Clippers GM Neil Olshey (55). In Bird’s first year as team President, he put together a 61-win team that look destined to be a power in the East you years to come. But then trouble struck.
The franchise-changing brawl at the Palace in Detroit in 2004 that interrupted and gutted a championship contender; a series of arrests and public embarrassments from his players in the following seasons that alienated a hoops-crazy fan base; and three coaching changes as he looked to change the culture of a free-falling franchise. A four-year playoff drought had many in his home state calling for Bird’s head, a startling fall for someone who once could do no wrong in Indiana. Bird fought through it all, he kept faith in the organization, and thankfully so did the people of Indiana. In 2006, he cleaned house. He was fed-up with what was going on.”We had to change the culture,” Bird said. “I thought Jimmy O’Brien really helped us in that aspect. He came in here and knew exactly what we had to do. We had to not only change the culture, but we had to take it slow and get some players we thought we could build around.”
The Pacers now find themselves in a 1-1 tie against the Miami Hat in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Bird has a lot to do with that. He was able to add some players, Bird added Granger, Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough in the draft, George Hill, Lou Amundson and Leandro Barbosa through trades and David West in free agency. The astounding thing through all of this is that Bird hasn’t been able to just whip open his checkbook and sign these guys. Indiana is a small market team, which has put restrictions on money spent, and hasn’t allowed Bird to chase after max salary players. He had to worry more about team chemistry and who would fit into the Pacers system. “Small market teams have got to be careful with how they spend their money,” Carlisle said. “Larry has created the perfect scenario of great young talent and flexibility. That franchise is in a phenomenal position.”
Larry Bird has been able to do it all in the sport of basketball. He has been able to play at the highest level, coach at the highest level, and become an executive at the highest level. This shows just how great of a basketball mind and person Larry Bird is. And I would say he has done a little bit of a better job as an executive than another NBA legend, cough, cough, Michael Jordan.