Bad intentions:Larry Bird always thought that he would die young: “Most of us big guys don’t seem to last too long”

Bad intentions:Larry Bird always thought that he would die young: “Most of us big guys don’t seem to last too long”

Larry Bird was one of the most confident players to ever step inside a basketball gym. Known as a big trash talker, Bird would tell opponents what he would do and how before executing what he said.

However, while Larry Legend’s belief in his basketball abilities was second to none, he did not trust his body the same way. Late in his NBA career, Bird was bothered by back injuries, which ultimately cut short his NBA career. But more than that, Larry had an abnormal heart condition known as atrial fibrillation, which always lingered in his mind.

In an interview with Jackie McMullan for ESPN, Bird admitted that he always thought that he would die young.

“I tell my wife all the time, ‘You don’t see many 7-footers walking around at the age of 75,'” says Bird, who’s 6-foot-9. “She hates it when I say that. I know there are a few of us who live a long time, but most of us big guys don’t seem to last too long. I’m not lying awake at night thinking about it. If it goes, it goes.”

Bird mentioned a game between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls on March 17, 1998, when he began to experience irregular heartbeat, a symptom of his heart issue. According to Bird, he almost lost consciousness and thought that he was going to pass out right there on the basketball court while coaching a game.

The referees called the TV timeout, and Bird was able to get through that harrowing sequence without anybody noticing what he had just gone through. He made it through that game and three NBA seasons as head coach, taking the Pacers to the 2000 NBA Finals.

Bird says big men are at risk

Bird’s fear of his heart condition heightened in 2015 when legendary big men Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins died 17 days apart. During a seven-month period that year, the NBA lost Anthony Mason, Christian Welp, and Jack Haley in addition to Malone and Dawkins.

“I have my own philosophies on that,” Bird says. “Guys that played the hardest in the league — big guys who ran their asses off — they are the ones in the most danger, I feel. Moses was one of those competitors. We build our hearts up when we are playing, and then we quit performing at a high level, and our hearts just sit there. I don’t work out like I used to. I can’t. I can’t go out and run. I jog and have a little sauna, that’s about it. My body won’t let me do more than that.”

Larry Legend is still going strong nearly 10 years after that sad year for the NBA. Bird is now 67, and with medication, exercise, and diet, he has managed his heart condition well enough to work again as a consultant for the Pacers.


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