LARRY BIRDOnce every generation or so, a player comes along who can truly be called a superstar. Larry Bird was such a player.For 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, from 1979-80 through 1991-92, Bird personified hustle, consistency and excellence in all areas of play--as a scorer, a passer, a rebounder, a defender, a team player, and, perhaps above all, as a clutch performer. Bird was so self-confident that he was known to waltz up to the opponents' bench before tipoff and predict a 40-point performance for himself. He was such a deadly shooter that he sometimes practiced three-pointers with his eyes closed. Among Bird's contemporaries, perhaps only, Earvin "Magic" Johnson was considered a better passer, a player who he would inextricably be linked with forever. Few played tougher than Bird, who would leap into crowds andover press tables for loose balls.Bird was the embodiment of "Celtics Pride." He was a classy, confident, hardworking player who thrived on pressure and inspired teammates to excel. Like Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Dave Cowens, the low-key Bird force the spotlight upon himself, but rather one who brought out the best in the players around him. But even those legendary players didn't fill Boston Garden, wowing fans and dominating games as Bird did.Bird helped rebuild a Celtics franchise that had been suffering from substandard play and poor attendance in the late 1970s. With Bird as the focal point of a well-rounded squad, the Celtics won three NBA titles and 10 Atlantic Division crowns. In addition to his three championship rings, Bird piled up an awesome collection of personal achievements. He became only the third player (and the first non-center) to win three consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player Awards. He was a 12-time All-Star, a two-time NBA Finals MVP and a nine-time member of the All-NBA First Team. He led the league in free-throwpercentage four times.An obsessive perfectionist, Bird was idolized by Celtic fans and basketball purists of all allegiances. His last-second heroics, ranging from seemingly impossible reverse layups to miraculous 35-foot bombs overmultiple defenders, never ceased to amaze those who followed his career."Larry Bird has helped define the way a generation of basketball fans has come to view and appreciate the NBA," said Commissioner David J. Stern when Bird retired due to a painful back condition in 1992, after capturing a gold medal with the original Dream Team at the Olympics in Barcelona.