The Larry Bird Work Ethic

Great article from Hoop Thoughts on what it takes to be at the top of your field. Look up virtually any top performer and there is a similar tale to be told.

While playing for the Celtics, Larry Bird’s daily program included a long-distance run, practice games with teammates, multiple sit-ups, and short-distance runs all sandwiched between lengthy shooting drills. No wonder he was such a superb fourth-quarter player — he was in better shape than anyone else.

More than 15 years later, Bird astounded many of the Pacers players by running a mile in 5:20. That achievement set the tone for the conditioning program the team endured over the summer as they approached training camp.

Veterans and rookies alike knew Bird had been obsessed with practice when he was with the Celtics, often showing up hours early so he could work on every face of his game. Other NBA coaches had used Bird as an example of a superb work ethics. One brought his team to Boston Garden early to see number 33 in action. To his amazement, Larry wasn’t on the court. Embarrassed, the coach headed for the sidelines before looking up to see Bird running on the track. He was working on his conditioning that day.

As well as his shooting. While most players waltzed into the locker room the required 90 minutes before game time, Bird has been on the floor by at least 6:00, more than two hours before tip-off. In the loneliness of Boston Garden, with only attendants and a few Celtics season ticket holders present, Bird shot more than 300 practice shots. He’d start with 6 to 10 free throws, move out on the court a bit, and then start firing away at a comfortable pace as comrade Joe Qatato hit him with perfect passes. Then the “Parquet Picasso,” as he was dubbed, would speed up the routine and by the end of the workout throw up rapid-fire shots, many featuring the Bird “drop back a step” maneuver that guaranteed him an opening from every angle. “I really don’t count my shots,” Bird said. “I just shoot until I feel good.”

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