Larry Bird not at All-Star weekend as the NBA celebrates its 75th anniversary
Roughly 50 of the NBA's all-time greats are gathered in Cleveland for more than just the All-Star game. It's a celebration of the league's past.
The NBA is celebrating its past as much as its present this weekend in Cleveland. Yes, the focus is on the All-Stars of today and those rising stars, but it’s also a gathering place for so many of the best basketball players to ever play.
There’s an ongoing celebration for the 75th anniversary of the NBA throughout the season — there’s even a section devoted to it on NBA.com — but it gets really special in Cleveland. Much like they did previously to commemorate 50 seasons, they held a vote last summer and then released a list of the top 75 players in league history.
Indiana native Larry Bird is easily a part of that group. However, he will not be in Cleveland for the festivities, Fieldhouse Files has learned.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on Saturday that he expects about 50 of the approximately 60 living legends in town for the celebration during Sunday’s game.
“Also, it's a reminder to me that there's so much ahead of us,” he said. “When I think about where this league now stands 75 years into its existence as we become more global, as we become more digital, it only creates more opportunities for us to bring basketball literally to every spot on the planet.”
Former Celtics great Bill Russell, an 11-time champion, is 88 and shared on Twitter that he decided against attending. “I was proud to play in 12 All-Star games, and have been lucky to attend so many as a fan, so I don't lightly make the decision to miss one—especially the one marking our League's 75th anniversary,” he wrote. “But I don't take anything about Covid lightly either, so I'm staying cautious—and doing my best to stay healthy—and will watch this year's game from my home.”
Bird has stayed in the background since stepping down as Pacers president on May 1, 2017. He essentially retired and spends most of his time down in Naples, Fla. He’s 65 and doing what he wants. He’s never been one to want the spotlight, and he’d likely say this weekend is about the current crop of players. Not the old guys.
When I last spoke with him in the summer, on the day his close friend Rick Carlisle was named Pacers head coach, he declined an interview. And he’s passed on all interviews over the last few years.
I asked Carlisle this week if he was aware of Bird’s plans and he was not. They’re close friends and likely talked earlier this month after the passing of Hall of Fame coach Bill Fitch.
Bird, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998, is still on the Pacers’ payroll as the advisor to the president of basketball operations.
He averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game in 13 seasons with the Celtics. He was an All-Star for all but one year — the one season (1988-89) he only played in six games. Even though Bird is not there, you’ll want to watch the halftime presentation to see so many greats celebrated at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Pacers Hall of Famer Reggie Miller will be on the TNT broadcast of the All-Star game, which will tipoff after 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday night.
Enjoy this legendary Bird moment from an All-Star weekend in Chicago.