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Boston Honors Larry Bird


The Boston Garden has been reduced to rubble and Larry Bird -- who made so many miraculous plays there -- has long since left town.

But on Tuesday, Boston fans had a chance to cheer again for the basketball star, now coach of the Indiana Pacers, at the unveiling of a bronze plaque in his honor.

"Even though I'm in Indiana, I still respect the Celtics and wish them well -- just not on the nights when we play them," Bird told about 200 people gathered under rainy skies at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

The plaque, which features a pair of bronzed Converse sneakers, was the latest in a career filled with accolades.

Bird, an All-American at Indiana State, was the college player of the year in 1979 and the NBA rookie of the year in 1980, the first of his 13 seasons with the Celtics. By the time he retired with a bad back in 1992, he was a three-time NBA most valuable player and twice an NBA Finals MVP.

Bird was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in June.

"What a great day for basketball, what a great day for Boston and what a great day for all of us when the Celtics signed you," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told Bird at Tuesday's ceremony.

The crowd that gathered around a small tent above the plaque included many die-hard fans.

Mike Willadsen, 41, of South Windsor, Conn., brought his 8-year-old son, Chris. He said he often pulls out old videotapes of Larry Bird games, including championships he played against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"He still turns out a crowd, doesn't he," Willadsen said.

Irene Verdie, visiting from Cordoba, Spain, squeezed through the crowd to snap a picture of Bird. Verdie, 19, said she grew up rooting for Bird. Her school basketball coach often invoked his name.

"He said, `Pass the ball like you're Larry Bird, so I did," Verdie said.

John Abbis, 21 of Malden, wore Bird's Celtics number 33.

"He was the greatest player of all time," he said.

Bird seemed happy with the plaque, provided by his longtime sponsor, the Converse sneaker company of North Reading.

But he noted it seemed a little small compared to a life-size statue of Celtics president Red Auerbach and a traffic tunnel named after Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams.

"Red gets the statue, Ted Williams gets the tunnel," he said, pausing. "I get a pair of shoes."

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