Monday, February 01, 2010 2/1/10 - larry bird

In today's excerpt - Larry Bird, one of the
greatest basketball players in NBA history,
was so demoralized by his own poverty as a
college freshman at Indiana University that
he abandoned school and took jobs collecting
garbage and unplugging sewers:

" 'For the most part, everything was cool,"
Larry Bird said [describing his first days at
college]. 'I just didn't
have any money. At night, if the guys wanted
to go get something to eat, I had no money to
do it. I couldn't buy a pair of pants or a shirt.
[My friend] Jimmy Wisman was pretty nice. He
let me wear whatever I wanted of his.
But it started to get to me, just never
having any money."

Two weeks into school, Bird started to
rethink his strategy. Maybe
he should withdraw from Indiana University,
get a job, then try again when he had
some financial security. He didn't share his
concerns with any of his
new friends on campus or his parents back
home. The few times he
called, [his mother] Georgia could sense he
was homesick, but she encouraged
him to study hard and stick with it. Bird's
interaction with [Coach Bob] Knight
was minimal, particularly since the team's
workouts had not yet officially begun. He
occasionally bumped into Knight at the gym, but
the coach was an intimidating figure, and
Bird was not one to initiate a conversation.

Bird might have made it if not for the night
he broke his toe
during a pickup game on the outdoor courts
after another player
landed on his foot. The injury was painful
and left Bird limping all over campus. He
got up 40 minutes earlier in the morning so
he'd make it to his first
class on time, but was consistently late
getting to the next one.

" 'I'm sitting there saying to myself, 'I'm
hurt, I can't work, I'm going to be in
trouble for being late to class, I don't have
any money,
and they won't let me play in any of the
games,' ' Bird said. 'Time to
go home.'

After 24 days on campus, Bird packed up his
duffel bag, closed
his dormitory room door, and hitchhiked back
to [his hometown of] French Lick. He
did not tell anyone of his plans - not even
the coach who had recruited him.

When Larry walked into his house, his
mother, who had just finished her waitress
shift, was washing dishes at the sink.

" 'What are you doing home?' asked Georgia

" 'I'm done. I'm not going back.' her son
answered. 'I'm going to

Georgia Bird's voice cracked. She was a
strong, proud woman,
but this news crushed her. 'I thought you
were going to be the first
one to graduate college.' she said. 'This was
a great opportunity for
you. Don't you understand? I'm so
disappointed.' ...

Bird's mother said nothing more. She did not
speak to Larry for
nearly a month and a half. Bird moved in with
his grandmother
Lizzie Kerns and avoided Georgia completely.
By then his parents
were divorced, and while [his father] Joe
Bird was not happy with his son's decision
either, he advised him, 'If you are leaving
school to work,
then you better get on that job - now.'

He took a job working for the town of French
Lick cutting trees,
painting street signs, sweeping the roads,
collecting garbage, and
unplugging the sewers. He later worked for a
company delivering
mobile homes.

Larry Bird and Earvin Magic Johnson with
Jackie McMullin, When the Game Was
Ours, Copyright 2009 by Magic Johnson
Enterprises and Larry Bird, pp. 13-15.


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