When Celtics legend and NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird looks at past years’ Olympics, it’s not the proud moment of co-captaining the 1992 “dream team” that first comes to mind.
Rather, it is the intimate and powerful moments shared between father and son.
“I always watched the Olympics with my father and even though I was very young – five or six – I will always remember how my dad stood with his heart on his hand and played ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ every time The USA won a medal at an event,” Bird told the Boston Herald. “(My dad) was bursting with pride.”
Bird, who lost his father to suicide in 1975, still links his Olympic viewing to that powerful memory.
That still makes the Summer Olympics a must-see event, with its traditions, memories, and the athletes and teams it blends in.
In other words, come Olympic week, she’s one of us, just a little more direct.
Bird says he has been an Olympic fan all his life.
“I idealized each and every one of the Olympians,” he said.
A particular favorite was international Brazilian champion and Olympian Oscar Schmidt, often referred to as the “Larry Bird of Brazil”.
Byrd said he witnessed Schmidt’s remarkable Olympic career. A five-time Olympian, Schmidt is the all-time leading scorer in Olympic history with over 1,000 points.
“I followed him throughout his career and hoped that he would play in the NBA so that I could compete against him or with him,” Bird said. “He had a wonderful career.”
Bird said that they never officially played against each other, but their lives cut each other off.
“When (he) asked me to introduce my place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, I was very honored,” Bird said.
Schmidt had retired until Bird’s co-captain with Magic Johnson of the “Dream Team” at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
That experience, Bird said, is the highlight of his storytelling career.
“When I took my first steps on the court, I said to myself, ‘I made it, I’m really here, I’m playing in the Olympics,'” she remembered, still with a little astonishment.
“It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was such an honor to represent my country and co-captain the team with Magic,” he said.
He added to the experience by joining forces with the players he admired on the NBA courts, he said.
“It was a real thrill to have as my teammates all the great players that I had to play for all those years,” he said.
And of course, the results added to the thrill.
“It was wonderful to be able to bring home the gold medal with them,” he said.
That moment brought him back to that vivid memory of his father.
“Of course, when we won the gold medal and I heard ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ sounding, I thought of my father holding my heart and he knew he would be very proud,” he said.
While most of his time in the 1992 games was spent winning, Byrd said he found time to participate in a few other competitions, including three or four baseball games.
“I played a lot of baseball growing up and still love the sport,” he said.
Little-known fact: Bird played baseball for Indiana State between being drafted by the Celtics and coming to play Boston. He hit .500.
This year, Byrd will do what he always does when it comes Olympic time: watch a lot of basketball.
“I usually watch the Olympics alone, I really like to focus on each sport and I especially enjoy watching records break,” he said. “Olympians work hard and get stronger and faster, I also enjoy swimming and watching track and field events.”
This year, however, Bird is adding a new tradition to its Olympic year, one that honors its father, helps its community and can just include you.
Bird will host an Airbnb online experience, “A Conversation with Larry Legend,” to celebrate the return of the Olympic Games, which have been delayed by the pandemic, to 2020. The experience will be a Q&A on all things Olympics, basketball, culture, and he will share stories from Boston to Barcelona.
Bird’s experience will be available to book through Airbnb as part of its Olympian and Paralympian Online Experiences, which offers more than 200 activities organized by the world’s best athletes, including their 1992 Olympic teammate Patrick Ewing. and Scotty Pippen’s experiences.
All money raised will go to support the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center, a comprehensive sports and entertainment facility located just outside Terre Haute, Ind. Bird helped set up the facility in 1994 to honor the memory of his father Joe as well as the departed. Local businessman Laverne Gibson.
Bird said he’ll share some of the best stories you’ve heard before but never directly from them.
“My friend’s family and I started with Gibson-Bird Park to honor our parents and it has since become a wonderful family play center that offers many different programs for children, families and the elderly as well. with the Terre Haute community.” he said. “We wanted to create something to support the Terre Haute area where I attended college and will always miss my parents.
“We will share some funny stories and they may even ask me questions,” he added.
Bird expects Team USA to do well this Olympic year, but it won’t be as easy as 1992.
“There are so many international players in the NBA now, I love watching them compete for their countries and they make every team so good that it’s hard to select contenders,” he said.
“I believe the USA team will pull this together and do very well,” he said.
Bird gave up basketball when he retired, and says he now enjoys spending his time in other ways, including through such charitable events.
“I have a great time, I have time to enjoy working out, golfing, fishing, engaging in various business and personal projects,” he said.
But don’t think that he still doesn’t have the game.
He said, “When I retired I had reduced basketball quite a bit, but I shot 20 in a row after a sports practice in my street clothes a few years ago, so I’m thinking I can still play a little bit. I can,” he said.
For information on how to register to Hang With Larry Bird for the Olympic Chat, visit https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/2727825.