The home arena and uniform look pretty much the same, even if the former isn't as full and the latter isn't as filled out. The face and playing style are familiar, too, though the mug is more youthful and the moves are rougher. The surname, alas, is the only thing Indiana State freshman Eddie Bird gets exactly right as yet. There are easier fates than being Larry Bird's kid brother.
It seems, for example, that whenever someone mentions that Eddie broke Larry's career scoring record at Springs Valley High in French Lick, Ind., someone else points out that Eddie's 1,172 points came in four full seasons, while Larry missed virtually his entire sophomore year with an injury and still scored 1,125. Consider, too, that when Larry bought his widowed mother, Georgia, a new house in 1983, he installed, in time for Eddie's sophomore year in high school, a full basketball court, complete with Plexiglas backboards, in the front yard. If Eddie makes it big, no one will say he had to overcome hardship to do it.
And to make it a little tougher, Eddie chose to follow the famous footsteps straight to the school that Larry took to the NCAA final in 1979. Still, Eddie, a 6'6", 190-pound swingman, is the leading scorer (12.7 points a game through last weekend) and free throw shooter (.889) for the 4-11 Sycamores. He has improved mightily since Indiana State's third game of the season, an 81-67, Dec. 3 loss at Boston U; Eddie took an oh-fer against the Terriers, launching 11 bricks with big brother watching.
"I don't mean this as an excuse," Eddie said last week after scoring 19 in a 79-68 loss to Bradley, "but I had a hard time seeing in Boston. I got contact lenses since then, and now I'm shooting 50 percent." He anticipates other improvements, too. "I've got a pretty good shot fake," he says (sound familiar?), "and this summer I hope to grow a couple inches and work with the weights, so Coach [Ron] Greene will let me play inside more." The extra strength should come; the extra height may not. Eddie, who sat out last season because of academic deficiencies, is indeed a rare bird: a 21-year-old freshman.
Whatever his height, Eddie should find next season more pleasant because he won't be the only Sycamore sibling under scrutiny. A Houston schoolboy star chose Indiana State last spring largely because he heard that Larry Bird's little brother had enrolled there. Taju Olajuwon, little brother of the NBA Rockets' Akeem, is spending his first year on campus as Eddie did, elevating his grades. For now, you can find both Eddie and Taju in an Introduction to Theatre class; perhaps they can draw some Shakespearean inspiration from All's Well That Ends Well.
The fledgling Bird is just beginning to take wing.