Indiana State alum Larry Bird honored with statue

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Subtle reminders that one of basketball's greatest players once dominated at Indiana State University are spotted throughout the Hulman Center, where the Sycamores play their home basketball games.

A picture of a young Larry Bird sits in a case with the 1979 NCAA championship runner-up trophy. The Sycamores went 33-1 that year and lost to Michigan State in the finals.

Nearby are four pictures that show Bird from his days as a collegiate star.

But on Saturday morning, before the Sycamores faced Ball State University in the season-opener, University officials unveiled a bronze trophy of Bird, sporting a Sycamores jersey and in mid-jump shot form -- a noticeable reminder of Indiana State's greatest days in basketball.

"I never dreamed of anything like this and that's why it's so special," Bird said.

Bird climbed from a SUV for the dedication ceremony to the school's pep band's playing of the school song and cheers from a sea of fans gathered near the new statue just off Larry Bird Avenue. Those who couldn't get a close enough look filled four levels of a parking garage across the street.

Bobby "Slick" Leonard, a former coach and current radio analyst for the Indiana Pacers called the statue "breathtaking."

"Who would have ever thought that we could go down into the hills of southern Indiana and bring a guy in here who shocked the basketball world with his teammates?" Leonard said. "That statue right there is going to be an inspiration to a lot of students and athletes that come here to Indiana State as well as the memory of that `79 ball club."

That's the whole intent.

The dedication ceremony and a moment at halftime where Bird was introduced to "Lar-ry, Lar-ry" chants from fans, wrapped up a weekend that included a fundraising dinner on Friday for the Larry Legend Scholarship Fund.

University President Dr. Daniel J. Bradley said it was the single-largest and most successful fundraiser in the university's history and raised nearly $400,000 for the scholarship.

"The statue wasn't enough," Bradley said. "They also wanted to create a scholarship in Larry's honor. This goal has been achieved as a result of (Friday) night's dinner. It will provide scholarships for future Sycamore athletes to gain an Indiana State University education while playing for the men's basketball program."
 

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