Larry Bird is a true legend of the game and one of the most skilled and accomplished players of all time. Bird won pretty much anything a player can win from a team and individual perspective in his illustrious NBA career, and he did it with unbelievable dominance. Even though there was a lot of prejudice towards Bird when he first came into the NBA back in 1979, with analysts saying he is too slow and not athletic enough, it didn't take long for Bird to make a name for himself and establish himself as a legitimate franchise player.
However, the road to becoming an NBA superstar wasn't so easy for Bird, who spent countless hours working on his craft behind closed doors when nobody was looking. That is how true champions are made no matter which sport they are competing in, and for Bird, it was no different.
In Mark Shaw's book Larry Legend, there is an insert in which Bird explains his unique approach to practicing and why he rarely played 3-on-3. Even before he became an NBA player, Bird knew practicing hard, learning the fundamentals of the game, and different strategies is the best way he can be competitive and dominant over other players. Bird would work out for hours, getting thousands of shots up from every possible position on the court.
When I'm out there by myself, what I'm doing is practicing my rhythm. You can play three on three for an hour and a half, and you'll possibly take one hundred shots. I can go out myself at the same time and take one thousand shots anywhere I want.
Larry Bird, via Larry Legend
Growing up with big brothers who also played basketball was one of the reasons Bird was super competitive. He was getting beaten often by his brothers, and after a while, he realized he would have to be smarter than they are if he can't match up with them physically. That is how Bird played the game his entire career, approaching it more as a chess player than a basketball player, always thinking few steps ahead of the competition.
I think that Larry just reached the point where he didn't want to be beaten anymore. So he began finding ways to beat you. He was always thinking about the game, figuring strategy.
Mark Bird, via Larry Legend
When he was a kid, Bird used his high basketball IQ and working habits as a tool to beat his brothers when they played each other. His approach towards practicing and becoming a better player never changed. After he got to the NBA, it became even more rigorous because he wasn't facing his older brothers anymore but some of the best players on this planet. He adapted quickly, and with his intelligence, competitiveness, and pure basketball savviness, became the top dog among the best players in the world, inducing fear in a lot of them every time they had to play against Bird.
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