Whitley County Connection: Remembering the late Jerry Bird

08/30/2017 04:57 PM

Tonight’s KSTV is our monthly county connection show, when we highlight different counties throughout the state. August’s county is Whitley County, home to the late Jerry Bird.

Basketball is king in Whitley County and there is no figure bigger than Corbin’s Jerry Bird, who played for the Cats from 1953 through 1956.

During his time in Lexington, the Cats won two SEC titles and one national championship. Bird was named to the All-SEC team in 1956. But the basketball legend of Jerry Bird almost never happened because Kentucky initially wanted him as a football player.

UK football coach Bear Bryant wanted the Corbin High Star to play linebacker for the Cats and the 6-foot-6, 200 pound Bird almost signed the football scholarship, but ultimately chose basketball.

A starter on Kentucky’s only undefeated team, Bird was known for facing off with the opponent’s biggest player, including Datyon seven-footer Bill Uhl. In that game, Bird scored 34 points and held Uhl to 11. For his career, he scored 713 points and grabbed 589 rebounds, including a NCAA tournament school-record 24 in one game.

Bird was taken by the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1956 NBA Draft and also spent some time with the New York Knicks before retiring to Corbin. In 2005, Jerry Bird was included in Kentukcy’s inaugural UK Athletics Hall of Fame class and his number 22 hangs inside Rupp Arena, forever preserving the legacy of the Whitley County legend.

Bird passed away on July 16 at the age of 83.

Watch the story here:

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