NBA superstars attract attention like a magnet; however, not all players love them. At his peak, Larry Bird, one of the league’s supernovas, did not like the crowd so much that he had to find ways to fend them off.
Larry Bird on flying commercial flights
There was a time when the Boston Celtics were flying commercial flights. Those were the days when NBA teams still had no private jets or lounges of their own. Naturally, Bird attracted unwanted attention on those flights. Former sportswriter and NBA columnist Jackie McMullan shared a story about an incident in an interview back in 2018 during the All-Star Weekend that displayed just how much Larry hated crowds.
“We’re trying to get out of Milwaukee and it’s delayed and they don’t have a lounge you know like all the major airlines have these private lounges where the players could go in out of sight of everybody so here’s poor Larry Bird stuck here people are coming up to him and he doesn’t like that he’s really kind of has a little bit of social anxiety actually around crowds and such so this young guy I’ll never forget he came up to Larry and he said Larry you want to play cribbage and Larry said yes so this kid set up the cribs board and played cribbage with larry for like an hour like Larry’s like another game because by doing that when people came up they didn’t want to he would say oh we’re in the middle of a game so they couldn’t bother him that’s genius?”Jackie McMullan, AllBasketballTV
Current players get all the privacy they need with private jets and lounges, as they don’t have the problems that Larry Bird had in his time. Playing with a kid so that people would get discouraged from asking for autographs was a genius move, but also, we get to peek at how the Celtics legend absorbed extra attention.
Bird trusted those who were close to him
Even though Bird hated the crowd, he was a bit warmer to those close to him. McMullan recalled that the Hall-of-Famer agreed to lend his Mercedes Benz to her one time, which speaks how he treated other people around him.
The Celtics legend was shy off the court but a fierce trash-talker to his peers. He was a warm friend to those who knew him. It was probably due to the way he was raised in their household. Coming from a small town in French Lick, Indiana, where everyone knew about everybody, Larry Bird was raised in an environment devoid of luxury.
Stories like this are unique since players nowadays are almost putting themselves in front of the camera 24/7 for media mileage. The times have changed, and extra attention might mean money from endorsement deals, but old school players like Bird did not want any of it and would not have it any other way.