Charity still a big part of Larry Bird’s basketball life

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Pacers President Larry Bird talks with a fan during the team's annual Masquerade Ball at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

INDIANAPOLIS – The small town humility still exists even after all the years of big time fame.

It’s maybe why Larry Bird says that he prefers to make his donations to charity in a more private matter rather than a venue like Bankers Life Fieldhouse as it was on Saturday.

“All my donations are sort of made under the table. I don’t need the publicity-I’m not doing it for publicity,” said Bird of his charitable work. “But I do care. That’s what matters most.”

That’s why Bird was the guest of honor at The Masquerade-the annual Pacers’ fundraiser for their own charity and the Simon Youth Foundation. He spoke to the crowd at the event aptly named “One Legendary Night”-playing of the nickname of the former Celtics superstar.

Bird would speak to the group about his life in the NBA and was preceded by former teammate and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Bill Walton. While he may not prefer to do such a thing, Bird couldn’t say no when it came to helping a charity.

“You try to do as much as you can. It depends on timing but my wife and I try to do as much as we can,” said Bird. “You never do enough. Playing in Boston, I get requests. Living in Florida part-time and here and even back in my home town. So spread pretty thin at times but you’ve got to give back.

“That’s what it’s all about.”

Speaking on Saturday night was something a little different since Bird would often attend the annual event along with the rest of the Pacers team and players.

“It’s for good charities. The Simon Youth Foundation, Pacers foundation. I don’t necessarily like to get up and speak but tonight I’m gonna get to talk about Bill Walton and it’s going to be fun,” said Bird-whose summer might not be described that way.

After Lance Stephenson opted to sign with Hornets and Paul George broke his leg, Bird was left with a monumental challenge to get the team back towards the top of the Eastern Conference. On top of that, the Pacers had preseason injuries to David West (Ankle) and George Hill (Knee) that may keep both out of the team’s opener Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Still Bird holds out optimism for what the team can do this season based on what he saw during the seven preseason games over the last month.

“We’ve got some guys that we think are gonna step up and play well,” said Bird of the Pacers. “I thought George Hill was excellent during training camp and he’s gotten a lot better. I’m amazed by how much better he’s gotten. Obviously we want to see some young kids get more time. Last year our bench didn’t play a whole lot, they got some minutes.

“They’re going to get a great opportunity to play more.”

Just like he got on Saturday night.