He was born in West Baden, Indiana, and was a star high school player. Bird originally enrolled at Indiana University, but left before the team's first practice. He eventually ended up at Indiana State University after a season at a junior college. He led the ISU Sycamores to the NCAA championship game in 1979, only to lose to the Michigan State University Spartans, led by Magic Johnson. Bird won the Naismith and Wooden awards, given to the top male college basketball player.
Bird was drafted, sixth overall by the Boston Celtics. He won three NBA titles - in 1980-81, 1983-84 1985-86. He announced his retirement on August 18, 1992, after having won the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, where he was part of the so-called Dream Team. Bird was also an all-star many times, and he was the all-star game's 3-point competition champion three times, as well as all-star game MVP in 1982, and NBA MVP 3 times. It is thought that Bird, along with colleagues Michael Jordan and Johnson, revolutionized the game of basketball during the 1980s.
Bird, a 6' 9" (206 cm) forward, was prolific at virtually all aspects of the game. He was one of the league's most accurate shooters, usually finishing among the top 3-point shooters as well as among the top free-throw shooters. His career average was 24.3 points per game, with a high of 29.9 points per game in the 1987-88 season. Bird was a great positional rebounder, averaging 10.0 rebounds per game over his career. He was also know as an excellent passer, averaging 6.4 assist per game in his career, a high average for a forward. He was even a strong defensive player, making the All-Defensive Second team three times and ending his career eighth overall in total steals.
After retiring, Bird was admitted to the Basketball Hall of Fame. He was also named to the NBA's "50 Greatest Players" list, in 1996. He became coach of the Indiana Pacers at the start of the 1997-1998 season. He coached the Pacers for three seasons before stepping down.
In 2003, he returned to the Pacers as President of Basketball Operations.