Some guys are made for the big moment. The stakes, the eyes, the pressure -- they feed off it.
Larry Bird was one of those guys. Take a look back at his 13-year NBA career with the Boston Celtics, and you'll find plenty of examples of "The Hick From French Lick" shining when the lights were brightest. Bird was expected to thrive by the time he got to the NBA, but there was a time when his escapades were the stuff of folklore.
Television coverage of college basketball during his time a Indiana State in the late '70s was reserved for the blue bloods. During Bird's senior season, however, the Sycamores were one of the best teams in the country. So, when NBC rolled into Terre Haute to cover ISU's game against Wichita State, it was the first time a national audience would get to watch Bird play.
Right on brand, he delivered with a record-breaking performance.
Larry Bird's 49-Point Performance vs. Wichita State
A snow and ice storm didn't stop the Sycamore faithful from selling out the Hulman Center on February 25, 1979. Nothing would've. They wanted to be on hand as they watched their team prove they were the best team in the country to the NBC audience.
For Larry, he was set to prove he was the best player on the best team in the country.
He quickly got to work by nailing jumpers, converting on quick shots in the lane and hitting his teammates with dazzling passes that would make any NFL quarterback jealous. Looking at the footage, Bird moves with an elegance no one else on the floor came close to. He was playing a different game, and the stat sheet proved it.
No. 33 finished with 49 points (a single-game program record that stands to this day), going 18 for 28 from the field and 13 for 15 from the charity stripe. He collected 19 rebounds and dished out two assists as well. Another day at the office for Bird, but a "holy cow this guy is insane" day for college basketball fans who hadn't seen Bird play. On top of it all, Indiana State beat the Shockers convincingly by a score of 109-84.
It was only the beginning for Larry Legend.
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