By Roland Lazenby
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Additional resources for Bird: Portrait of a Competitor
We'll do anything to win. " "We're both the same," Johnson has said. "We'll do anything to win. C. Jones observed. " Auerbach had drafted Bird with the sixth pick of the first round the previous spring (1978), leaving the Celtics a year to sign him. It was one of the all-time slick maneuvers in NBA personnel management. As a fifth-year college player, Bird was eligible for the draft, and Boston was willing to wait a year for his services. Auerbach and Bob Woolf, Bird's agent, dickered over the contract until finally agreeing on a $650,000-per-year deal, then the largest rookie contract in league history.
It was this work ethic that propelled the Celtics to three world championships (1981, '84 and '86) over Bird's 13-year playing career. In getting those three championships and making a serious run at two others, Larry Legend led Boston to nearly 800 wins, eight divisional titles, and five conference crowns. As Celtics President Red Auerbach once explained, Bird was the driving force in Boston's success simply because he was the most motivated player Page 18 Page 19 in the history of the game. "Larry has been very charismatic coming from the small town, the little ol' country boy from French Lick, Indiana, and so forth.
His father, Joe, was a skilled laborer plagued by alcohol and debt. His mother, Georgia, worked as a waitress to keep her six kids going in the right direction. Bird has said the near poverty of his upbringing remains a large factor in his motivation. It is also the foundation of his work ethic and solid value system. As a star at Springs Valley High, where his older brother had starred before him, Bird attracted the attention of college recruiters and eventually agreed to play for Bob Knight at Indiana University.