As we all know, Larry Bird is one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game. But like any other all-time great, Bird, too, started out as a notable youngster in college.
Bird didn't impress Maxwell
Despite being drafted 6th overall by the Boston Celtics from the crop of college hoopers in 1978, Bird did not play professionally until the following year. When the Indiana State standout joined the Cs’ training camp for the first time in 1979, Cedric Maxwell was already an established player averaging 19 points per game.
As expected, all eyes were on Bird as Maxwell and the rest of the Celtics squad, primarily black guys, doubted what a 23-year-old “white guy” can do on the court. Little did Maxwell know, he was in for a show.
“He didn’t impress me no more than any white guy I have ever seen play before. “I think you would say most Black players at the time were racist in the sense that we did not think you could find a White guy who could play better than any Black guy.” Maxwell said of the rookie Bird in an interview via AllBasketballTV
He realized Bird is different
The Celtics went on with their practice routines and finally played five-on-five. Bird put on quite a performance, to everyone's surprise, knocking down shot after shot and lighting up his defenders. It was at this moment when Maxwell figured that he had seen enough, and it was about time to take this kid out.
The veteran then decided to guard the rookie. However, “The Hick from French Lick” just continued where he left off and even nailed jump shots from “20 feet” and “25 feet” away.
Maxwell finally rested his case and admitted that the “white guy could play.”
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh he’s slow. He can’t get off his shot. He’s not that strong. This is going to be a lay-up.’ … Bam! Knocks down a jump shot. [I’m thinking] OK, maybe that was luck. [He] get’s the ball again. Bam! Knocks down another jump shot. Now I’m thinking, ‘You know what, I’m going to D this guy up.’ 20 feet away, bam! 25 feet away, bam! On my mind constantly was just, ‘Damn, this White guy could play',” Maxwell recounted.
Bird’s five-year, $3.25 million rookie contract with Boston at the time made him the highest-paid rookie in history. After that first scrimmage with the team, Maxwell understood why the organization spent that money on a rookie a lot of people questioned before they actually saw him play.