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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Larry Bird Museum officially opens in Terre Haute

    Indiana State University and Boston Celtics great Larry Bird explains how his former Springs Valley High School coach, Jim Jones, taught him to handle the ball during a press conference after the grand opening ceremony for the Larry Bird Museum on Thursday in Terre Haute, Ind. (Joseph C. Garza/The Tribune-Star via AP)

    Terre Haute, Ind. — By his own admission, Larry Bird has always been a shy introvert.

    So he wondered why he has to keep talking on stage in front of thousands of people.

    “It’s because of the love and respect I’ve had for my fans and the love and respect they’ve shown me back,” Bird said.

    The Indiana State University and Boston Celtics great addressed a public ceremony Thursday for the official opening of the Larry Bird Museum inside the Terre Haute Convention Center. After the ceremony, Bird took questions from the media, which he jokingly said might be his last interview.

    “I got a little street named after me, I got a statue out there and now a museum here,” Bird said of the city, the home of Indiana State. “Thank you, Terre Haute, but I think that’s enough for a while. You have no idea how much I respect the city and the people in it.”

    Coincidentally, the ceremony took place a few days after the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals by sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. Bird, a former head coach and executive with Pacers, returned to his home-state team as a consultant in 2023.

    “I remember at the All-Star Game, I told one of the Celtics owners that I thought they had the best team in the league,” said Bird, who won three NBA titles with the Celtics. “I’m very proud of the Indiana Pacers. I think they’ve got a very good opportunity to keep moving on and doing very well. (Tyrese) Haliburton and other guys play well together. When the ball’s moving, they win. If they guard a little bit, they win. Sometimes they don’t guard. They have a very good team and they’ll only grow together and get better.”

    Bird, 67, is just as proud of the museum and all the work that went into it. The museum contains memorabilia from Bird’s high school, college and NBA career, interactive exhibits and interviews with coaches, teammates and rivals. Bird led Indiana State to the 1979 NCAA championship game before losing to Magic Johnson-led Michigan State.

    “I think they got enough in there to keep everyone’s interest,” Bird said. “I think it’s going to be good for the city and a lot of people will come through it.”

    Bird said there are so many items that bring back memories of his career.

    Capital Improvement Board Museum Co-Chair Terri Conley said one thing Bird insisted on is the museum admission was free.

    Bird described the museum opening reception as unbelievable.

    “I think that’s what social media is all about, thank God they didn’t have that when I was playing,” he said. “There are so many young kids wearing my jersey. ... Terre Haute has followed my career. You don’t make these journeys alone. Terre Haute always had my back.”

    Bird never envisioned having a museum named after him.

    “All I tried to do was follow my brother’s footsteps and make the varsity team,” he said. “I made myself proud when I got to start as a junior. I kept playing and, obviously, I love the game. I loved other sports, too, but basketball clicked for me.”

    Entering his sophomore year at Springs Valley High School, Bird was just 6-foot-1 before undergoing a huge growth spurt.

    “Thank God, I grew or I’d still be working on that garbage truck,” said Bird, referring to the job he had in French Lick after leaving Indiana University before his freshman season started and before enrolling at ISU. “At 6-1, you don’t make it to the NBA unless you are special and very quick. I even grew up at Indiana State. I went from 6-7 1/2 to 6-9 and that really helped my game.”

    Bird said there were some tough losses and great wins along what he called his amazing journey.

    “It’s just unfortunate my career didn’t last longer because I could have played two more years but the injuries started mounting,” he said. “I felt we should have won at least one more championship with the team we had.”

    Bird retired before the 1992-93 season with back problems. Bird helped the Celtics capture NBA titles in 1981, ’84 and ’86. As a head coach, Bird coached the Indiana Pacers to the NBA Finals in 2000 before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Indiana State University and Boston Celtics great Larry Bird gives a thumbs up to the crowd as he walks out onto the stage during the grand opening ceremony for the Larry Bird Museum. (Joseph C. Garza/The Tribune-Star via AP)
    A youngster proudly displays his Larry Bird Boston Celtics jersey during the grand opening ceremony for the Larry Bird Museum on Thursday in Terre Haute, Ind. (Joseph C. Garza/The Tribune-Star via AP)

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