French Lick, Indiana: A Visit to Larry Bird's Hometown
For sports fans in Boston and in tiny French Lick, Indiana, the number 33 is sacred. With a population of 1,800, French Lick is one of those places where everybody knows everybody. And there, 33 is synonymous with French Lick's most famous native son -– Larry Bird.
This weekend marks the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. 2014 is also the 30th anniversary one of Bird's greatest years: in 1984, Bird led the Celtics to the NBA Championship, picking up the regular season and Finals MVP awards and, yes, starting for the Eastern Conference in the all-star game (held that year in Denver).
For 13 years --1979 to 1992 -- the Hick from French Lick, wearing 33 on his jersey, led the Boston Celtics to victory after victory, including three NBA Championships (1981, 1984, 1986). Bird played in 12 NBA All-Star games and won almost every award that the NBA has to offer. Much of this hardware, as well as memorabilia from his time at Indiana State University, where he lead the Sycamores to the NCAA championship game, are on display at a restaurant in French Lick called 33 Brick Street.
Bird doesn't own the restaurant, nor is the restaurant located on Brick Street. It's actually at 480 S. Maple St. But when three childhood friends wanted to open a restaurant on a downtown street paved with bricks, the superstar gave them his full support along with a bunch of "stuff" to help with the decor.
The "stuff" includes his Naismith Trophy as the country's best college basketball player, numerous NBA awards, championship rings and jerseys. Larry Bird was on the 1992 Olympic Basketball Team that won gold in 1992. His warm-up jersey is just not on display -– it's on a hanger behind the bar and anyone who asks can try it on.
Mounted on the wall is a portion of the gymnasium floor from the old Spring Valley High School where Bird played. The signatures there are not the superstars of the game we know today. They are teammates and others who played with and against the Hick from French Lick back in the day.
French Lick is about a 75-minute drive from Louisville, Kentucky -- one more reason that city is the best place in America to start a road trip.
Other Bird-related spots you'll want to check out in French Lick: