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Larry Bird Thought He Would Be A Construction Worker Instead Of A Basketball Star In High School

Larry Bird Thought He Would Be A Construction Worker Instead Of A Basketball Star In High School

Larry Bird is recognized as one of the greatest NBA players of all time. From his killer jump shot to his famous trash-talking, Bird seemingly could do it all.

But what if I told you basketball was not Bird's original choice for a career? No, Larry Bird had dreams of becoming… a construction worker?

Well, maybe it wasn't a dream for Bird, but this career choice was definitely on his mind.

“I thought I might do construction work,” Bird said. “It’s hard work. It’s tough work. But I like that. I always figured if things didn’t work out, I’d go into construction.”

Bird said this in an interview he did with Indianapolis Monthly in December 2015.

It's hard to believe that Bird would think of any career other than basketball, but he did. Let's go back in time, to French Lick, Indiana, during the fall of 1974.

After a stellar senior year in high school basketball, Bird caught the eyes of many colleges.

This was easy to see when you noticed Bird's basketball stats. As a senior at Springs Valley High School, Bird averaged nearly 31 points and 21 rebounds per game. He led Springs Valley to a 21-4 record.

After high school, Bird signed to play for coach Bobby Knight and the famous Indiana Hoosiers.

This was the dream of all high school basketball players from Indiana, to play for the Hoosiers. So, Bird must have been ecstatic, right?

Well, not exactly. Something happened to Bird during the summer before he'd start his college career at Indiana.

Bird played basketball for the Indiana Boys All-Star team in their annual series with Kentucky.

You would think Bird was the star of the all-stars during those summer games, but that was not the case.

Bird didn't see much playing time during the games. This upset Bird so much, he twice refused to enter a game to play meaningless minutes in a blow-out.

Things continued to get worse for Bird, personally. His parents got divorced, breaking up their typical family situation.

When the college year started, Bird only lasted 24 days at Indiana University. The basketball team hadn't even practiced yet, but Bird left.

Bird came from a small town of about 2000 people, and the thought of attending a school of 33,000, was too much to handle.

When Bird left, he didn't tell anyone, including his parents, that he left school. He wanted out, so, he hitchhiked home, 50 miles south to his home in French Lick.

Bird initially enrolled at a small local junior college, but he quickly dropped out.

Afterward, Bird started working for the Street Department. He did jobs like cutting grass, painting benches, striping streets, and driving a garbage truck.

Basketball was over for Bird, he believed construction was where he'd end up.

“When I was at [Indiana] State, finishing to get my degree, they had me teaching special needs kids in a high school. That was tough. It gave me a lot of respect for people who do that,” Bird said.

“I thought I’d wind up being a construction worker, pouring concrete. I wasn’t very good at shop in school, but I’d been around construction. As far as basketball goes, I just wanted to be the best player on my high school team.”

In 1975 Bird decided to give college and basketball another try, this time with the smaller Indiana State.

Before leaving his job working as a garbage truck driver, Bird recalls saying this to his coworkers:

“I told them, 'I'll be going up there to get a little education. Then I'll be back and be boss of you guys.'”

The same year as Bird started his college career at Indiana State University, tragedy struck.

Bird's father committed suicide. This effective Bird deeply. His father was his best friend and fishing buddy.

“I sort of always felt my dad gave up on not only himself, but us kids,” Bird said. “I still had two younger brothers at home and a mom. That’s the way I looked at it then, and the way I look at it now. I handled it pretty good, I think.”

The one thing that took the death of his father off his mind was basketball, yet Bird couldn't play his first year at Indiana State University.

He had to sit out since he was a transfer student. But Bird participated in scrimmages during practice.

There, his coach, Bob King, started sidelining him during scrimmages against the starters.

Bird was furious, he went above King's head to complain about sitting out. He threatened to quit and once his threat was made, Bird began playing in all the scrimmages.

The following season, Bird did play college ball, and he played well. He averaged 32.8 points and 13.3 rebounds per game.

The smaller Indiana State was the perfect school for Bird. It helped Bird mold into the player and person he would become.

“I had friends there, and I liked the school,” Bird said. “It was small, about 12,000 kids, and a lot of them commuted, so there weren’t a ton of them on campus. It really fit me. It didn’t have anything to do with the players or the coaches on the team, because I really didn’t know any of them. It was mostly the school.”

Bird led Indiana State to an 81–13 record during his three years, including an undefeated regular season (33–0) in his senior year.

Even though Bird's Indiana State lost to Magic Johnson's Michigan State in the championship game, Bird would go on to the NBA to win the Rookie of the Year Award, 3 MVP Awards, 3 NBA titles, and several other awards.

It's hard to think Larry Bird's incredible basketball career almost wasn't a thing. For a split moment, Bird almost became a construction worker.

We all know if that would've happened, Bird would've been the most prolific, trash-talking construction worker in French Lick, Indiana history. 

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