Larry Bird has had an outstanding career — he’s the only person in the history of the NBA to be named MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year. After spending 13 years as a player with the Boston Celtics, during which time he won a slew of awards, three NBA Championships, and an Olympic gold medal, Bird retired from playing and moved on to coaching. Just as he excelled as an athlete, he was an incredible coach who lead the Indiana Pacers in some of the franchise’s biggest moments as well as a Finals appearance.
Retirement simply doesn’t suit a go-getter like Larry Bird, though he tried to leave basketball in 2012. He was back a year later and is now the president of the Pacers, leading their operations. Even more interesting than his playing career and fame are Larry Bird’s early years, which set him up with the values and mindset that he needed to become wildly successful. There’s plenty to learn from someone with so many years and types of experience behind him in life and business.
Here are ten quotes from Larry Bird that are full of inspiration.
1. “Push yourself again and again. Don’t give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.”
If Larry Bird had been one to quit or give up, there’s no doubt he’d have never even become a pro basketball player. He had to overcome quite a few adversities to make it to the top, and just as he put everything on the line on the court he’s done the same in other areas of his life as well.
2. “First master the fundamentals.”
Larry Bird has repeatedly said during and after his playing career that what gave him an edge and helped him become a legend is that he had an excellent grasp of the fundamentals of the game. That’s also what lead to him becoming a fantastic coach and franchise executive — know the basics, and you can go on to excel in other areas much more easily.
3. “I’ve got a theory that if you give 100% all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.”
Very few people have ever failed miserably by giving their absolute best at any given moment. Someone’s best may not look the same from day to day, but when you put in that effort it adds up and makes it easier to achieve goals and move through life. Half-efforts don’t cut it if you want to reach the top.
4. “I always know what’s happening on the court. I see a situation occur, and I respond.”
This quote spells out one of the reasons why Larry Bird was so successful on the court as a player and coach, but he’s also applied this same line of thinking to his personal life and business affairs. He’s never been afraid to make the moves that he thought were necessary, and he’s proactive rather than reactive.
5. “It doesn’t matter who scores the points, it’s who can get the ball to the scorer.”
It’s wisdom like this that made Bird an icon. Even if you’re not getting the accolades you want, it’s important that you play your role in any situation to the best of your abilities. Whether that’s at work or in relationships, you don’t have to be the one who’s front and center to have importance in the grand scheme of things.
6. “Leadership is getting players to believe in you. If you tell a teammate you’re ready to play as tough as you’re able to, you’d better go out there and do it. Players will see right through a phony.”
It’s undeniable that Larry Bird is a consummate leader. He gained that reputation as a player and has only made it stronger during his years as a coach and executive. He shows he’s worthy with his actions rather than just running his mouth, and he has the same attitude in situations outside of basketball as well.
7. “I knew I was as good as anybody. That’s not really bragging; it’s just that I’d put the time in.”
Larry Bird has always been down to earth, but he’s not the type to downplay his own hard work and effort. That’s because he had a long route to reaching the heights of success that he now enjoys, and it was all about motivating himself to do his best and do what was right.
8. “A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.”
It was obvious to so many people during Larry Bird’s early years that he was destined to become a great player, but it was up to him to take his talent, fine tune it, and be willing to go out on the court and give it his all. You can have all the innate talent in the world, but if you don’t develop it to reach your full potential and then put that talent to use, you’ll never get the most that you can out of life.
9. “Once you are labeled ‘the best’ you want to stay up there, and you can’t do it by loafing around. If I don’t keep changing, I’m history.”
This explains why Larry Bird won’t settle for retirement and keeps working to maintain his status as one of the best in the game. Many would be content to just sit back or vacation at his age, but the status quo has never been good enough for Larry Bird.
10. “I really don’t like talking about money. All I can say is that the Good Lord must have wanted me to have it.”
It’s astounding that so many pro athletes end up broke after accumulating massive amounts of wealth, but Larry Bird’s keys to avoiding that pitfall and being financially successful are his faith and commitment to being a responsible steward of money. He’s never been flashy and doesn’t waste money, which is how he has a net worth of over $45 million decades after he stopped playing.