NEW YORK — Indiana wants the NBA All-Star Game and sent Larry Bird to get it — in an Indy car.
Bird drove four blocks down Fifth Avenue in his specially themed car to deliver the Pacers’ bid to host the 2021 game to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, fitting his 6-foot-9 frame into a car usually driven by much shorter people.
Bird, an Indiana native and now the Pacers’ president, had driven an Indy car only once, during a practice run for his drive Monday.
“It’s a little rough ride,” he said. “No suspension or anything, but it’s fun.”
Drawing a crowd of a couple hundred spectators, he maneuvered along the left lane, exited his yellow and blue “Larry Bird” car and said it was challenging to drive because of the car’s small pedals and his big feet.
Bird was all smiles after his ride, which came a day after his team was eliminated from the playoffs in a first-round sweep by defending champion Cleveland.
“It’s like a bucket list thing. It’s in New York, so you’ve got to do it,” Bird said. “If I was driving around my neighborhood, I don’t think I’d have had any interest in it. But coming up to New York and ride down the street for a few blocks, it’s something that I wish everybody could do.”
Indiana hasn’t hosted the NBA All-Star Game since 1985 but has plenty of experience staging big events, including the Super Bowl and seven NCAA men’s Final Fours, along with the annual Indianapolis 500. The Pacers want to combine the NBA event with high school tournaments, the Final Four and the women’s Big Ten Tournament for what they said would be a “celebration of basketball” in hoops-crazy Indiana that would last from mid-February through early April.
“This is going to be special because we know how to throw a party,” Bird said.
“We haven’t had it since ’85 and we look forward to getting back in the mix and having the All-Star Game, not only for our fans but for our state. We’re built on basketball, that’s all we have there that makes us happy — there’s a lot of things that makes up happy, but basketball’s one. Just having the opportunity to have the All-Star Game is just great for Indiana.”
The NBA recently opened the bidding process for the 2020 and ’21 weekends. The Pacers delivered a multimedia bid platform that included its bid book and a map showing the ease of having the event in Indianapolis.
Silver cited the state’s basketball passion and the presence of owner Herb Simon, who bought the team in 1983 and is the league’s longest-tenured owner, in saying that Indiana would be a strong candidate.
“I know you guys would be fantastic hosts,” Silver said.