Larry Bird takes Manhattan — in ‘retro-fitted’ IndyCar

Larry Bird takes Manhattan — in ‘retro-fitted’ IndyCar

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When I read the Pacers media advisory a few days ago, I was sure video and photos of Larry Bird delivering the Indianapolis bid partners’ 2021 All-Star game pitch had the potential to be priceless.

After all, Larry Bird driving a “specially themed and retro-fitted IndyCar” anywhere would be good stuff, but along the streets of Manhattan?

According to the Associated Press, a couple hundred people gathered near the Armani Exchange, 645 Fifth Avenue — the corner of 51st Street and Fifth Avenue — as the Pacers President of Basketball wheeled up in the blue and yellow ‘Larry Bird’ IndyCar.

bird all-star bid indy car 2
Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Larry Bird drew a crowd in Manhattan Monday when he delivered Indiana’s bid for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game and Weekend activities in a retro-fitted IndyCar. (Photo: NBA/Getty Images)

Bird wasn’t totally comfortable during his four-block trek along Fifth Avenue — the results of a 6-9 frame being too long for much if any comfort while cramped in a narrow, cockpit-like setting.

The foot pedals — too small for his large feet — and lack of suspension also were somewhat problematic for the former Boston Celtic and 3-time NBA champion.

“It’s a little rough ride, but it’s fun,” Bird said, adding that the ride was “like a bucket-list thing.”

“It’s in New York, so you’ve got to do it,” he said. “If I was driving around my neighborhood I don’t think I’d have had any interest in it, but coming up to New York and riding down the street for a few blocks, it’s something I wish everybody could do.”

If Indiana does land the 2021 All-Star Game and Weekend activities, Bird said the “party” or “celebration of basketball” would begin in mid-February and continue through the men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament championship in early April.

The Pacers’ proposal indicates it wants to combine the “NBA event” with high school basketball tourneys, the men’s NCAA Final Four and the women’s Big Ten Tournament.

The entire event will be special — “Because we know how to throw a party,” Bird said. 

Bird and Jordan ... 1985 All-Star game
Larry Bird and Michael Jordan push the ball up the court during the 1985 NBA All-Star game at the Hoosier Dome. (Photo: Associated Press)

Indiana has hosted the NBA All-Star Game just once, in 1985 at the former Hoosier Dome.

Bird played in that game, finishing with 21 points and 8 rebounds but the East lost to the West, 140-129, with Ralph Sampson (Houston Rockets) scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 boards to win MVP honors. 

The game was the first of 14 All-Star appearances by Hall-of-Famer Michael Jordan, who was in his rookie year with the Chicago Bulls. 

“We look forward to getting back in the mix and having the All-Star Game, not only for our fans but for our state,” Bird said. “We’re built on basketball, that’s all we have there that makes us happy. … There’s a lot of things that makes up happy, but basketball’s one. Just having the opportunity to have the All-Star Game is just great for Indiana.” 

The “multimedia bid platform” Bird delivered to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver included its bid book, a map showing that Indianapolis can handle the event easily and other miscellaneous items. 

According to Silver, the fact that Herb Simon has owned the Pacers since 1983 and is the league’s longest-tenured owner, and because the state is well known for its passion for basketball at all levels, Indiana would be considered a “strong candidate” to be selected to host the 2021 events. 


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