Larry Bird was the best basketball player to ever play the game of basketball. He was a 13-time NBA All Star, a 10-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, and a 9-time NBA Finals MVP. He scored over 30 points per game during his career, and averaged at least 20 points per game in 11 different seasons. He was also a prolific 3-point shooter, earning him a spot on the NBA’s All-Time 3-Point Shooters list.
A new report from the National Basketball Players Association says that Larry Bird made $24.4 million during a successful NBA career, but he refused to show up to a neighbor’s Bar Mitzvah for $25,000.
In 1992, a neighbor of Larry Bird’s in Indiana brought his bar mitzvah to the NBA star’s front door. The boy was only 16, and the party was to be at the family’s home, but Larry’s wife, Joanne, declined. “I just can’t portray myself as someone who’d be doing that for a $25,000 fee,” Larry told Sports Illustrated in 2016. “That’s not me.”
Larry Bird established a reputation as one of the best players in the NBA during his time on the court. As you would imagine, his celebrity gave him not just fame but also money. While the forward made a little more than $24 million with the Boston Celtics, he wasn’t willing to sell out for the sake of money.
Take, for example, one particular story from Bird’s life. A neighbor allegedly offered the Celtics player $25,000 to attend at a bar mitzvah on one occasion. Larry Legend, on the other hand, was uninterested.
Larry Bird’s remarkable NBA career resulted in a $24 million paycheck.
Professional sports wages have risen dramatically in recent years. Despite the fact that things were different in the 1980s, Larry Bird was still able to earn a good living as a professional basketball player.
Bird’s basketball career was almost cut short by a terrible experience at Indiana University, but the forward established a name for himself with the Indiana State Sycamores. Larry Legend did not win the NCAA championship, but he did demonstrate enough skill to be selected as the sixth overall selection in the 1979 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics.
Bird’s first five years in the NBA were spent earning just $650,000 a season, but he soon established his NBA worth and began requesting a higher salary. The sharpshooter was named Rookie of the Year in 1979 and won his first NBA championship in 1981. Beginning in the 1984-85 season, his salary was increased to $1.8 million per year, which corresponded with some of Larry Legend’s greatest play.
Bird had won three NBA championships, three NBA MVP awards, and established himself as a living basketball icon by the time his career ended. He also received a total compensation of little over $24 million, which, although small by today’s standards, was nevertheless a substantial amount.
Refusing to attend a bar mitzvah and declining a Harvard interview
Larry Bird is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018. | Maddie Meyer / Staff
Larry Legend was not the kind of man who was driven by money, despite his multimillion-dollar income. In fact, he rejected down simple money-making chances simply because they weren’t his style.
“Bird has always been very truthful. In an old Sports Illustrated article (H/T Internet Archive), Frank Deford stated, “He puts it all out clear, and no amount of cajoling will persuade him to rethink his priorities.” “Bird was once offered $25,000 to perform at a bar mitzvah just a block from his suburban Boston home, but he turned it down out of hand.”
The Celtics forward wasn’t anti-bar mitzvah, either. Bird once turned down three proposals from big-name suitors in a row, according to Deford.
‘I have three things to say to you, Larry,’ said [attorney Bob]Woolf. ”Derek Bok, Harvard’s president, has asked you to speak to the freshmen class this fall.”
”SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is looking for a cover model.”
”LIFE magazine is interested in doing a photo essay about you, but you will not be required to pose. The photographer is going to…”
Sports Illustrated’s Frank Deford
‘ Bird then fired back at his attorney with a blast of his caustic humor. “I thought you said this was an important call, Mr. Woolf,” he continued.
Larry Bird was never one for making a lot of money.
Larry Bird, to his credit, was at least consistent. Not only did the forward have no difficulty declining money-making opportunities, but he also reduced his interests to a minimum.
In a 1981 Sports Illustrated feature, John Papanek wrote, “What most impresses the people who know Bird — from his few new friends in Boston to those in Terre Haute, where Indiana State is located, to the French Lickers who have known him since he was an itty-bitty thing with a basketball under his arm — is that nothing has changed him.” “Not the celebrity,” says the speaker. Not because of the money, which is $650,000 per year. Nothing.”
Bird’s favorite sources of enjoyment were also mentioned in the tale. They were all quite average, as one would expect.
“The ideal team player in the definitive team game still wears blue jeans and baseball hats, and being alone with a basketball and a goal to shoot at still gives him a third of his joy. “Being a member of a team contributes another third,” Papanek added. “Winning, mowing his yard, drinking beer, shooting squirrels, fishing, playing golf, and being with friends and family provide the remainder of his pleasure.”
When you’ve got modest hobbies like that, an additional $25,000 suddenly seems like a lot less of a priority.
Spotrac provided the financial data.
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