Indiana State’s story is best told through its graduates and faculty. Here is one of a dozen people who exemplifies the university’s key qualities.
With a promising future as one of the NBA’s greatest players, Larry Bird did what many considered unthinkable. He turned aside NBA riches to complete his senior year at Indiana State University, a choice very few athletes had made. But Bird promised his grandmother he’d earn and receive a college degree. He led the Sycamores to a 33-1 record in his senior year.
After graduating from Indiana State University in 1979, Bird became the indisputable leader of the great Boston Celtics. Bird went on to be named “The Living Legend” by Sports Illustrated – the only person in NBA history to receive the Most Valuable Player award, the Coach of the Year award and the Executive of the Year award. Bird is now President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers.
“I was stunned by the unbelievable way he played,” said Carl Nicks, a teammate with Bird on the 1978-1979 Sycamores team that went undefeated into the Final Four. “I was in awe.”
Determination and drive became Bird’s trademark even as a youngster when he would practice free throws for two hours every day before school began. Graduating in 1974 from Indiana’s Springs Valley High School, Bird was the school’s leading scorer, despite suffering a broken ankle during his sophomore year. True to form, instead of sitting idle during his recovery, Bird practiced shooting every day.
Today, Nicks works with Bird as manager of player relations for the Indiana Pacers. “Larry Bird is the ultimate basketball player,” Nicks said. “He has earned every award he has ever received and I feel so blessed to have played ball with him on the ISU Sycamores team.”