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  1. #1

    Former Wildcat Basketball Player Jerry Bird passes away

    Courtesy UK Media Relations

    JULY 17, 2017

    Former UK Men’s Basketball Player Jerry Bird Dead at 83
    Bird’s No. 22 jersey is retired in the Rupp Arena rafters.

    CORBIN, Ky. – Jerry Bird, a former Kentucky men’s basketball player and member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame, died Sunday morning of natural causes in his hometown of Corbin, Kentucky. He was 83.

    Bird, a Kentucky men’s basketball player from 1954-56, helped Kentucky to two Southeastern Conference titles in 1954 and 1955 and was a member of the 1954 team that went 25-0 and was crowned national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation.

    Bird was inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005 as a part of the hall of fame’s charter class. His No. 22 jersey is retired in the Rupp Arena rafters, which is considered to be the ultimate individual honor for a Kentucky Wildcat.

    “Jerry Bird was Kentucky through and through,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “He was proud to be a Wildcat and is an important part of Kentucky basketball history. We offer our condolences to his family and friends.”

    Bird scored 713 career points and grabbed 589 career rebounds under legendary head coach Adolph Rupp. He averaged double figures in both his final two seasons at UK, including 16.2 points and 11.3 rebounds in 1955-56. He was tabbed an All-SEC Second Team member that year.

    On March 17, 1956, vs. Iowa, Bird grabbed an NCAA Tournament school record 24 rebounds, a postseason mark that still stands today. When Bam Adebayo hauled in 18 boards vs. Northern Kentucky in UK’s most recent NCAA Tournament run – 61 years to the day since Bird’s historic game – Bird received a number of calls and texts from friends and family telling him that he still held the record, his son, Steve Bird, said.

    “My dad was really proud to be a part of the University of Kentucky,” Steve Bird said. “He always thought the university handled everything with first class. As proud as he was to be a player, he would always tell us how proud he was of his school. ‘They do things the right way,’ he would tell us.”

    Bird was drafted in 1956 by the Minneapolis Lakers. He played one season with the New York Knicks in 1959.

    Bird and his three brothers – Calvin, Rodger and Billy – were all from Corbin, Kentucky, and staples of the town. All three of Bird’s brothers played football at UK, while Calvin and Rodger are both members of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame.

    Following his basketball career at UK and in the NBA, Bird returned to Corbin and worked the majority of his life at American Greeting Card until he retired.

    A memorial service in Bird’s honor is planned for Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Central Baptist Church in Corbin. It is open to the public.

    Bird his survived by his son, Steve, Steve’s wife, Lisa, their two grandchildren, his brother Rodger and his sister Nancy Carrol.

  2. #2

    Re: Former Wildcat Basketball Player Jerry Bird passes away

    Didn't see him play but take pride in what he and his team accomplished. My sincere sympathy to all who loved him

    "Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes." — Jack Handey ,

  3. #3
    Rupp's Runt
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    Re: Former Wildcat Basketball Player Jerry Bird passes away

    The first U.K. Players I remember were the Birds. I always thought they were to Kentucky what the Majors were to UT.

  4. #4

    Re: Former Wildcat Basketball Player Jerry Bird passes away

    I didn,t start following UK till 1958 so didn,t see Mr Bird play. His jersey being in the rafters I,ve questioned along with others, when someone like Mike Casey is second in ppg for a 4 year player at 18.7 at guard behind only Louie and was first team All SEC three times, yet his is not honored. So it,s not so much I would want anyone,s jersey removed but others like the forgotten Casey should be added. My sympathies to the Bird family. I remember Calvin and Roger playing

  5. #5

    Re: Former Wildcat Basketball Player Jerry Bird passes away

    Isn,t there a Jerry Grogmeir retired, what I m talking about

  6. #6
    Super Kitten
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    Re: Former Wildcat Basketball Player Jerry Bird passes away

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry Blue View Post
    I didn,t start following UK till 1958 so didn,t see Mr Bird play. His jersey being in the rafters I,ve questioned along with others, when someone like Mike Casey is second in ppg for a 4 year player at 18.7 at guard behind only Louie and was first team All SEC three times, yet his is not honored. So it,s not so much I would want anyone,s jersey removed but others like the forgotten Casey should be added. My sympathies to the Bird family. I remember Calvin and Roger playing
    FWIW, it's not clear exactly why or even when Jerry Bird was named to have his jersey retired.

    According to the following article "Rupp in a brief speech recommended to Shively that the numbers worn by the first seven men of the team be retired permanently. the numbers No. 16 (Tsioropoulos), No. 30 (Ramsey), and No. 6 (Hagan) would be retired immediately while the other four would be retired when the playing careers of the boys terminated. They are No. 42 (Evans), No. 20 (Gayle Rose), No. 33 (Linville Puckett) and No. 44 (Phil Grawemeyer)."

    Link to Article

    As it turned out, Linville Puckett later got into a spat with Rupp and led a mutiny, eventually transferring to Kentucky Wesleyan (along with Bill Bibb and Pete Grigsby). Puckett never had his jersey honored by UK (even though years later Puckett still believed he was entitled to it.)

    Apparently Bird, who was the eighth highest scorer on the 1953-54 team (at 3.5 ppg), took Puckett's place because by 1973 (the first time I've seen a formal list), it lists Jerry Bird along with the other members of the 1948 Fabulous Five and the 1954 Undefeated team as having their jerseys retired.


    Link to List of Retired Jerseys


    Link to 1953-54 Individual Statistics

    Again, I haven't seen any information verifying this but it appears that Jerry Bird was not on the original list to get his jersey retired but sometime after Linville Puckett left school, Bird was honored in his place.
    Receive updates on my UK website on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bigbluehistory

  7. #7

    Re: Former Wildcat Basketball Player Jerry Bird passes away

    Thanks, as I hope I related I have no disrepect for Mr. Bird or some others I question but when there,s an obvious omission on someone like Casey, I wonder what people are thinking about or not thinking. Rupp once made the comment that of all the players he coached, if a game was on the line he,D want Casey to have the ball over anyone else.

  8. #8

    Re: Former Wildcat Basketball Player Jerry Bird passes away

    Quote Originally Posted by JPScott View Post
    FWIW, it's not clear exactly why or even when Jerry Bird was named to have his jersey retired.

    According to the following article "Rupp in a brief speech recommended to Shively that the numbers worn by the first seven men of the team be retired permanently. the numbers No. 16 (Tsioropoulos), No. 30 (Ramsey), and No. 6 (Hagan) would be retired immediately while the other four would be retired when the playing careers of the boys terminated. They are No. 42 (Evans), No. 20 (Gayle Rose), No. 33 (Linville Puckett) and No. 44 (Phil Grawemeyer)."

    Link to Article

    As it turned out, Linville Puckett later got into a spat with Rupp and led a mutiny, eventually transferring to Kentucky Wesleyan (along with Bill Bibb and Pete Grigsby). Puckett never had his jersey honored by UK (even though years later Puckett still believed he was entitled to it.)

    Apparently Bird, who was the eighth highest scorer on the 1953-54 team (at 3.5 ppg), took Puckett's place because by 1973 (the first time I've seen a formal list), it lists Jerry Bird along with the other members of the 1948 Fabulous Five and the 1954 Undefeated team as having their jerseys retired.


    Link to List of Retired Jerseys


    Link to 1953-54 Individual Statistics

    Again, I haven't seen any information verifying this but it appears that Jerry Bird was not on the original list to get his jersey retired but sometime after Linville Puckett left school, Bird was honored in his place.
    Great history, Jon. Thanks for supplying that.

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