News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 28, 2012

Larry Bird statue plans back on track and bigger than ever

Sculpture to be in place outside Hulman Center by fall 2013

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University’s basketball star Larry Joe Bird, who stands 6 feet 9 inches tall, will soon be dwarfed by a Hulman Center statue that will honor the basketball legend, who also became an NBA all-star with the Boston Celtics, Olympian and an Indiana Pacers coach and executive.

An all-bronze, 15-foot tall statue, which excludes any additional height from a base, is being crafted by Vigo County sculptor Bill Wolfe, who has promoted the idea for the past eight years.

It is to be dedicated at ISU’s Hulman Center in fall 2013.

Wolfe said Monday that he wanted to be sure that Bird’s statue was taller than any of his longtime basketball nemesis and now friend, Magic Johnson, who played for Michigan State University as well as the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.

 “I don’t have anything against Magic,” Wolfe said.

“Larry is just better,” Wolfe and Jack Fox, director of development for the Indiana State University Foundation, said in unison at Wolfe’s studio on Ohio Street in Terre Haute.

“I think [the statue] will be an interesting point of conversation for Larry and Magic when they see each other again,” Fox added.

“We think that will be a great event when we unveil this and dedicate it. This will be great for the city and university. It will be another icon in the city that people come to see,” Fox said.

Fox said it also will be a good tool for basketball recruitment.

“You can walk a [prospective player] by that statue and say, ‘This is where Larry Bird played and you could be in the same place as him,’” Fox said.

Funding for the statue started in 2007 with The Larry Legend Foundation, a student organization that sought to promote honoring Bird with a statute at Hulman Center. The goal was to raise $135,000 for a statue at least 13 feet tall, with more funds for a taller statue.

Controversy stalled the project last year after a donor came forward to complete the statue, but had sought a different artist than Wolfe. Leadership in the ISU Foundation also changed.

As the new development director, Fox said he met with the donor, who wants to remain anonymous, and “after some thoughts and discussions with the donor, we agreed that Bill [Wolfe] would be the best choice to make that happen. I was glad to see that change happen,” Fox said.

“I am very excited. I grew up in Terre Haute. I was 9 years old in 1979 when ISU was in the [NCAA] tournament,” Fox said. “I remember all the hype, but at 9 years old you don’t realize how big it is. Now it is neat to be a part of this honoring of Larry.”

Fox also remembers a song, “Indiana has a new state bird,” played on radio stations in Terre Haute after ISU lost in the NCAA championship game to Michigan State 75-64 in the most-watched college game in history.

“I think it is long overdue,” Fox said. “I think things just lined up where we had the generosity of someone who just wanted to see it happen and we have a gifted artist who has had a vision for this for a long time,” Fox said.

Fox said university archives were researched for photographs of Bird, including several profiles of Bird that Wolfe will use for the statute.

Wolfe said he will take a photograph and measure that to make a wood cutout of the profile. That cutout will then be used to check that profile during sculpting.

Wolfe had made a maquette of Bird eight years ago, but plans to make a new version, which will be reviewed by the donor, the university and university foundation as well as Bird.

This time Wolfe plans to focus on the face of Bird for the statue. “I am not concerned about the body as much, but it is the face,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe now has four months to make the maquette and finish a clay statute. Then Sincerus Art Castings in Indianapolis will have four months to create the bronze statute.

“I am making him in halves, so it can be easily transported to the foundry,” Wolfe added.

In addition to the statue, Fox said the foundation now has a goal to raise $50,000 to create a Larry Legends Scholarship. In an effort to raise money for that scholarship, the foundation will sell copies of the new maquette for Bird’s statue.

Those will be produced with paid orders, Fox said.

The fundraiser for the scholarship “is about the students and about giving opportunities that they may not have had otherwise and it is about reinvesting in the university and our community,” Fox said.

The foundation’s website is www.indstatefoundation.org, and donations can be earmarked for the Larry Legends Scholarship. The foundation can be reached at (812) 514-8400.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.