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Why Larry Bird missed out on millions despite being an all-time great

Bird was notorious for not doing endorsements during his playing career, which was a stark contrast to his friend and rival, Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers

Larry Bird has done it all throughout his lengthy basketball career. During his 13-year run with the Boston Celtics, he won three titles, three league MVPs, and numerous other accolades that have cemented his status as one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. He also had a successful stint as a head coach and executive during his post-playing career, winning Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year awards for his efforts.

Bird was always good, and the Celtics knew that early in his career. He inked a five-year, $3.25 million rookie deal right out of college, making him the highest-paid rookie in sports history at the time. Bird would earn over $24 million throughout his playing career, which was quite good for a professional athlete at the time. 

$24 million doesn’t seem like a lot nowadays, but through endorsements and investments, Bird has been able to triple his career earnings despite keeping a low profile.

Early Investments/Endorsements

Bird was never one to seek out the spotlight with his newfound fame in the NBA, but when he took endorsement deals or made investments, he made sure he did them right. However, most of his work in this category came after he was done playing. In fact, Bird was notorious for not doing endorsements during his playing career, which was a stark contrast to his friend and rival, Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers.

One of the only endorsements Bird took during his playing career was with a local Boston restaurant called “Scotch n’ Sirloin.” The owner of the restaurant continually pestered Bird to do an endorsement with him, and Bird finally relented. But when it came time to discuss payment, Bird said the only thing he wanted was for him and his teammates to be able to eat there for free after every game.

Of course, Bird would become a spokesperson for different companies such as Mcdonald’s, Converse, and Capital One throughout his career. And while these were all profitable endeavors for Bird, he never actively sought the spotlight at any point of his career. Maybe it limited his potential earnings, but it also ensured that whenever Bird popped up on your TV screen, you made sure you were paying attention.

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Top Investments/Endorsements

Bird’s biggest endorsement deal came with Heinz Corporation shortly after his coaching career ended. Bird became the national spokesperson for Heinz’s new frozen meal offers and was featured in a commercial showcasing the products. Despite this massive deal for Bird, he remained relatively selective on what he chose to endorse or invest in, which has become very notable as he stepped away from basketball in 2017.

Aside from that, Bird has done a bit more in the investing area after his playing career ended. He co-owns a restaurant and a hotel in Terre Haute, Indiana, which happens to be where his alma mater, Indiana State University, is located. Bird’s contributions to the Terre Haute area have caused the region’s folks to construct an entire museum as a tribute to his legendary career, which is slated to be finished sometime in 2023.

In some ways, you could argue that Bird’s biggest investment was in himself. As previously mentioned, he was never big on having a spotlight following his every move, but that helped contribute to his undeniable popularity. He always went out and performed on the court, and his popularity made him incredibly sought after for endorsements and partnerships off the court. So when he did them, they were usually big.

Bird’s image and pockets also benefited greatly from his rivalries with players throughout the league. For example, his McDonald’s commercial where Bird plays a game of ‘horse’ against MJ to see who will be buying the other lunch remains one of the most popular commercials of all time.

Bird’s image has always been a big part of his career. He raised his popularity to a new level when he was featured in the Space Jam movie with Michael Jordan. He has continued to find his way onto people’s screens by featuring in several documentaries during his post-playing career. 

Bird wasn’t the most in-your-face player during his time, but he made money in a way that worked for him, and I’m sure he’s not complaining about that.

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