On one such occasion during the 1991-92 campaign, I drove out to the airport to meet the Boston Celtics. At that time many in the NBA believed that Larry Bird was playing his final season. This was probably going to be the last time he played at Market Square Arena.
After the Celtics’ gear was loaded, I was ready for the trip to the team’s Downtown hotel. As we headed up the ramp to the Airport Expressway I noticed a television cameraman recording us. Within a half-mile we encountered another guy taping us. I smiled while thinking about how much attention was being given to Bird’s last game in Indianapolis.
A couple of guys met us at the Westin and asked the coaches to step off the bus while everyone else remain seated. They talked for a while before an assistant released all the players and staff except for one player, but it wasn’t Bird.
I later found out that the detained player had been involved in a hit-and-run accident in the Boston area the previous evening; it wasn’t until the flight had departed that law enforcement officials had put all the pieces together.
Things became much clearer then. Those cameramen weren’t as much interested in Bird’s last game in Indy as they were in breaking the story about the accident. They had followed us Downtown and were setting up their cameras near the bus. Soon, that player and all of the fellows talking to him exited the bus and went inside the hotel.That was the last I heard about the incident for a few years.
One of the Celtics’ stars was their starting center, Robert “The Chief” Parish. We hit it off quickly and enjoyed chatting each time he was in town. Several years later he was a member of the Chicago
Bulls and started with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
On one occasion as The Chief and I were talking, I asked him if he remembered the hit-and-run incident. He told me that the player had been convicted and served some time before moving to Europe to play ball.
Parish said the player was a good guy who made a couple of bad choices. He also said the guy had learned from his mistakes and was really doing a good job of piecing his life back together. I don’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget the concern and passion in The Chief’s voice as he gave me the update.
Bird finished the season and became a member of the 1992 Olympic squad, known as The Dream Team. He was later named coach of the Pacers before being becoming president of basketball operations. He is the only person in the NBA to be honored as Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year.