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Larry Bird never understood people's fascination with celebrities and pro athletes: "I always thought the whole idea of being paid to play pro basketball is ridiculous"

Larry Bird breaks down why he respected the real fans that came to watch him play and why he always gave 100 percent every time he stepped on the basketball court
Larry Bird never understood people's fascination with celebrities and pro athletes

Larry Bird

Larry Bird is one of the biggest legends in NBA history and, simultaneously, someone who saved the NBA alongside Magic Johnson in the early 80s. Throughout the years, Bird was considered the best player in the NBA, and his popularity was only matched with Magic's and later Michael Jordan's when he entered the NBA. However, despite all the money and fame that Bird accumulated over the years, he was always incredibly modest and down to earth, which is not a trait most athletes of his stature possess.

Bird never understood people's fascination with celebrities and pro athletes

In his book called "Bird Watching," Bird reflects on the notion of fame and the influence professional athletes and celebrities have on regular people. Bird never understood why people were so attracted to them and was fascinated by how professional NBA players make so much money playing a kid's game in packed stadiums in front of so many people. 

"To be honest? I don't understand the attraction of celebrities. I always thought the whole idea of being paid to play pro basketball is ridiculous. I mean, think about it. You are taking that ball, running down the court, and you've got somebody on you. You've got four guys out there on your team, and five from the other team, and some people on the bench, and you look up, and the place is packed, and all you are trying to do is make that ball go through the hole. It's just crazy to me. After all these years, it still doesn't make sense. 

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He respected the real fans that came to watch him play

Even years after he started his NBA career, Bird was in awe every time they would play in front of their home crowd at Boston Garden. Bird was most surprised by fans that were all the way up in the stands and couldn't even see the actual game, and it would have been better for them to stay at home and watch the game on TV.

"Back when I was with the Celtics, I used to sit there and say to my teammate Dennis Johnson, "Can you believe this? Look at all those people. They're in here watching us play. Isn't that just amazing?" D. J. would look at me like I was losing it, but it was mystifying to me. Still is. Especially all those fans way up at the top of the arenas. You know they could see the game better if they just went home and watched it on TV, but they're up there sweating (in Boston Garden, at least—our building never had any air-conditioning!), and they're loving it."

Bird always admired the real fans that saved money to be at the game despite the fact they didn't have the best seats in the arena. Bird had a lot of respect for every fan that came to watch him play, so he felt the obligation to come out and perform every game and give his 100 percent. The term load management didn't exist in his vocabulary, and he made sure to give the fans a performance worth their hard-earned money for the ticket admission. 

"They were the real fans. I always understood that. They're the ones who had to save for their tickets, who were happy just to be in the building. We'd sell out every night. The fans in the nosebleed seats were always there. I would never have dreamed, when I was a kid, that anyone would pay money to watch me do anything. And no matter how much money I ever have, I'll never take it for granted."

This type of mindset, love, and relationship towards the regular fans is a rare sight among today's players, who somehow became incredibly detached from the fans. His modest background is the one that set him apart from the others, but he understood really well what it took for regular fans to attend games, especially those that didn't have a lot of money. When you stop and think about it, his statement about ordinary people worshiping celebrities and professional athletes is profound, especially in today's day and age when that has become even more relevant than ever before, and these people have a godlike status in today's society.

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