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Larry Bird Honored at Masquerade

by Mark Montieth

Bill Walton remembers the team meals at the Scotch and Sirloin, the restaurant in Boston where the Celtics players could get a free meal. The players’ only financial obligation was to leave a tip.

“At the end of the meal, Larry would surreptitiously wait until everybody left and he would go around and see how much money was left on the table, and he would supplement the tips,” Walton recalled. “He wouldn’t let anybody see him. But I’ve got good peripheral vision.”

It would take X-ray vision to recognize most of Bird’s acts of charity. He prefers an under-the-table approach – or on-the-table, when necessary. He tries to keep it quiet. No press releases, no press conferences, no speeches, nothing … unless there’s a benefit to that as well.

That’s why Bird participated in One Legendary Night Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Masquerade’s annual fund-raising banquet for the Simon Youth Foundation and Pacers Foundation. He might have preferred to stay home with his family, but duty called.

“I don’t necessarily like to get up and speak,” he said beforehand. “But tonight I’m going to get up and talk about Bill Walton, and that’s going to be fun,” he added, laughing.

Walton was an invited guest, flying in from his home near San Diego, to help honor his former Celtics teammate. And while Bird is nearly as reluctant to talk about his charitable acts as he is about his Hall of Fame playing career, Walton has never been shy about bragging for Bird.

“Larry’s life is charity,” Walton said before the ball. “He tolerates people like me.

“His ability to inspire others, his ability to make others’ dreams come true … Larry Bird is so similar to John Wooden, so similar to Jerry Garcia, because it’s never about them. They only want the group to succeed. The list of things Larry does for others is endless. But you never hear about it.”

Bird, Walton said, would begin each day in Boston with a large wad of cash in his pocket. By the end of the day, it was likely empty. Sometimes tips needed to be supplemented, sometimes people simply needed help.

Bird learned the value of empathy while growing up in French Lick, in a poor family that sometimes needed help from others.

“We didn’t have a lot,” he said. “We were greatly benefited by gifts and different things during my childhood so it’s only fitting that I give back.”

It’s not always easy for Bird. He grew up in French Lick, went to college in Terre Haute, played his professional career in Boston, lived in Naples, Fla. after retiring, and has lived in Indianapolis while working for the Pacers as a coach and president. A lot of towns and cities claim him, and a lot of people and organizations ask for his help. He can’t say yes to everyone. But he says yes to many.

“My wife (Dinah) and I try to do as much as we can,” he said. “You can never do enough. You’ve got to give back. That’s what it’s all about.”

Walton spoke at the ball for more than 15 minutes, praising Bird as a friend and teammate. He ended with a story about a scrimmage in practice, when Bird was playing with the starters and he was playing with the reserves. The reserves had been dominating, but the assistant coaches who were officiating the scrimmage began showing blatant favoritism to the starters. So, a fed-up Walton grabbed a rebound and walked it over to head coach K.C. Jones to complain.

Jones took the ball and replied, “Bill, you know full well that we can never get out of here until Larry’s team wins a game.”

Bird spoke for about 17 minutes, telling a story about attending a Grateful Dead concert with Walton when the Celtics were in Oakland during their playing careers, and joking about the effect of all the substances in the air that night.

“Having an out-of-body experience with Bill Walton, you can’t beat it,” he said, laughing.

Bird concluded with a few comments about the current Pacers team, currently handicapped by injuries.

“I love every player,” he said. “Our players play. We always talking about putting it on the line, doing the right thing. You can’t beat this group of guys. You’re going to have injuries. It’s how you come out of it. Who steps up. Who pushes harder. That’s what it’s all about.

“We’re all blessed to be in the NBA, where we make good money and can do good things for charity, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about competition. It’s all about fighting hard, it’s all about working hard. That goes for everyone every day in life. Not just the NBA.”

The evening also included video tributes from various people associated with the Pacers, along with NBA greats such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, Pat Riley, Jerry West, Ralph Sampson, former commissioner David Stern and current commissioner Adam Silver.

David Letterman also provided a lengthy video in which he told a story about how, when he lived in Indianapolis, he was accosted one evening by “some young toughs” downtown. He was saved by a stranger who gave him a ride, took him to dinner and gave him $500. Letterman said the man only described himself as a guy from a small town who played a little basketball.

Letterman said he took the money and moved to Los Angeles to begin a new career in television. Then one day he was reading the Los Angeles Times and saw a picture of an athlete who looked familiar. It was the guy from a small town who played a little basketball.

“It was Rick Mount,” Letterman said.

thankyou
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Pacers Foundation Awards $118,000 in Grants and Scholarships

The board of directors of Pacers Foundation, Inc., awarded $118,000 in grants and scholarships at its recent quarterly meeting.

Grant recipients included LaPlaza to support a college mentoring program; the Social Health Association for an anti-bullying initiative; Ronald McDonald House to support families who can’t afford the cost of a hospital stay; the Catch The Stars Foundation of Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings; Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis; Coburn Place Safe Haven; Christamore House; HANDS in Autism training and resource center at IUPUI; Sheltering Wings; Arts for Learning; Kids’ Voice in Indiana; Restoring Lives West and the Young Actors Theatre.  Read More

Larry Bird
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The Masquerade Announces Larry Bird as 2014 Honoree

Celebration of Hoosier Basketball Legend to Benefit Simon Youth Foundation and Pacers Foundation

Indiana basketball legend, NBA Hall of Famer and Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird will be the honoree at The Masquerade at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis on Saturday, October 25, 2014.

From his early days at Springs Valley High School in French Lick, Ind. and Indiana State University to his renowned NBA career with the Boston Celtics and now with the Indiana Pacers, Bird always has risen to the top as a hardworking leader who inspires others to excel on and off the court. Read More

thomas-greg
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Pacers Foundation Awards $50,000 to Thomas D. Gregg School 15

Donated Funds will be used to further implement new STEM curriculum

Indianapolis Public Schools Thomas D. Gregg Elementary School 15 will receive a $50,000 grant today from The Pacers Foundation. The funds will be used to further advance the school-wide theme of Aviation and Aerospace as part of a STEM-related curriculum.

Pacers Foundation representatives will present the grant today, April 9, 2014, during a school-wide assembly at 2:00 p.m.  Read More

teamsmile
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Pacers, Fever Team up with TeamSmile for Free Day of Dental Care

The Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever teamed up with TeamSmile on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to provide free dental exams to over 300 local children from IPS School #44. Fever head coach Lin Dunn, along with Boomer and the Pacemates attended the event.

Dunn was part of a crew of over 100 dental professionals and volunteers, led by lead dentist Dr. Nicole Van Le, who helped give the children treatment, sealants, and instruction while promoting the importance of good dental hygiene. The event also featured fun activities, including face painting, balloon animals, and interaction with clowns and mascots, designed to make the experience enjoyable as well as educational.  Read More

Indiana Pacers Come To Our House
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Indiana Pacers to Host 16th Annual “Come to Our House” Thanksgiving Dinner

On Thursday, Nov. 14 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, over 650 men, women and children from Central Indiana shelters will be served a warm, home-cooked holiday meal by the Indiana Pacers and the Indiana Fever. The annual event is presented by Pacers sponsor US Foods and hosted by Pacers forward David West and his wife, Lesley. Levy Restaurants is preparing the meal and all leftover food will be donated to Second Helpings.

The current Pacers players and coaches will be joined by Fever staff, the Pacemates, Pacers Radio/TV personalities, Boomer, Pacers employees, former Pacers legends Rik Smits, Darnell Hillman, Derrick McKey, Fred Jones and Eddie Gill along with special guests in serving the hearty meal to the assembled guests. In addition to the food, the guests will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities which include: the IU Health blood pressure screenings; the Health Exchange Marketplace; photo booths; FREE popcorn; a Balloon Artist; a Face Painter and more.  Read More

Indiana Pacers Toy Giveaway
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Pacers, JAKKS Pacific Team Up to Give Away 20,000 Toys

This summer over 20,000 toys will be donated to children of Central Indiana families by the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever, in partnership with leading U.S. toy and consumer products company, JAKKS Pacific. The effort is supported by the Indiana National Guard in a project called, “Summer Christmas.” In December, additional toys will be given out to more families and charities for the holiday season.

The Pacers and Fever have been working with the National Guard and various civic and community partners to distribute the toys. Among the groups receiving toys this summer are the National Guard; the Indianapolis Children’s Museum; Christel House Academy; Indiana Members Credit Union and IPS #44; Community Health Network; Tamika Catchings’ Catch the Stars Foundation; Ben Davis Christian Church/McClelland Elementary School and Riley Children’s Hospital among others.  Read More

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