Local column in today's Charlotte Observer about Bird:
<a href="http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/sports/columnists/3583767.htm" target="_blank">Bird's group has an obvious advantage</a>
Larry Bird walks into Charlotte Coliseum and the reaction is interesting. Fans don't run to him and follow him the way they do some celebrities or act as if they're old friends the way they do others.
Bird doesn't invite that. He is nice enough, but he isn't gregarious. And at 6-foot-9, and very tan and very blond, he has enough presence and size to discourage idle conversation.
Some idle conversation can't be avoided, however, and Bird stands behind a lectern at the Coliseum early Monday evening and answers questions from reporters. This is his first public appearance in Charlotte since he played in the Coliseum 10 years ago.
Bird, who is part of a group that wants to buy an expansion team from the NBA and put it in Charlotte, is asked what advantage his group has over the others that allegedly want a team.
M.L. Carr, a teammate of Bird's in Boston and a teammate in the effort to land an NBA team, responds by pointing to the big man. This is the advantage their group has, Carr says as he uses both arms to point at Bird.
"Quiet, M.L.," Bird says.
Bird, 45, might be uncomfortable with attention, but he's not uncomfortable parlaying his status -- 12-time All-Star, winner in each of the three seasons he coached the Indiana Pacers, and legend -- into reminding the NBA who he is.
"Larry is as competitive as anybody," says Carr. "Every advantage that he possesses he will use."
If their group gets the team, Bird will run it. What an opportunity he would have. There would be no tradition to get in his way, no mistakes to undo. The roster would be his.
Bird lives in Naples, Fla., way down the Gulf Coast, a land of sunshine, golf and water, and one of the few places in the world where a 45-year-old is called kid. Bird says competition drives him, and he "can't get it on the golf course, can't get it in the swimming pool."
He says if Charlotte builds an arena, it "definitely" will get a team. He sees the building as more than a two-hour stop on game nights, sees fans coming early and kids playing ball on baskets set up outside.
He remembers playing on baskets inside Charlotte Coliseum, with fans crammed into the seats on each of side of them as far as he could see. He played four seasons in the building, and his last season was Larry Johnson's first. I remember his first game against Johnson. Bird talked incessant trash, Johnson talked back and a good time was had by all.
If Bird gets his team, he will move to Charlotte, and says he and his family will dig in. He likes the size, which is small by NBA standards, likes that it lacks the "hustle and bustle" of a bigger city. He also likes that you can "get where you're going pretty quickly." He must have had a police escort.
Before the news conference, and before the Charlotte Sting played the Phoenix Mercury in a WNBA game, Bird joined Carr, who also is the president of the Sting, and Dell Curry, the Toronto Raptor and former Hornet, to put on a basketball clinic. On the floor were about 300 kids.
With them, Bird was engaging and easy. He gave them tips about how to shoot, and invited them to shoot free throws.
Despite the tips, they kept missing big.
"Does everybody in Charlotte shoot airballs?" he asked.
No. But the last few seasons in this building were so ugly it sure did feel that way.