22 Jerry Bird

Jerry Bird
Hometown (Last School)
Corbin, KY (High)
1953-54, 1954-55, 1955-56
February 2, 1935

From the 1956 University of Basketball Media Guide:

A prominent proven campaigner of last year’s highly successful team, Bird evidenced his indispensability by the fact that he was the only net man outside of Burrow to start every game. And despite the torrid pace set in many of the tilts, the 6-6 Corbin native turned in nine “iron-man” performances with his route going exhibitions. Armed with an excellent set shot in addition to the fine accuracy he shows on his graceful hooks, Bird parlays deadly marksmanship with rugged rebounding, a figure he ranked second on the final tabulations. Operated as a pivotman his first two years at but made the difficult switch to forward last winter with surprising ease. Turned in an exceptional effort against Vandy last year with a 20 point outburst, his season high, and combined with his defensive work, he helped UK break a late deadlock to finally subdue the pesky Commodores. Hails from the same hometown of the famed Frank Selvy, and was considered an even better prospect than the ex-Furman flash. Expected to cop All-Southeastern Conference honors this year if he can surpass or even duplicate last year’s glimmering effort. An All-State selection for two seasons at Corbin High and a star of the North-South cage classic at Murray in 1952. Also named to a first team All-America prep berth the same year. 

Obituary – Former UK Men’s Basketball Player Jerry Bird Dead at 83, UK Media Relations (July 16, 2017)

CORBIN, Ky. – Jerry Bird, a former 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 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 Wildcat.

“Jerry Bird was 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- Second Team member that year.

On March 17, 1956, vs. Iowa, Bird grabbed an Tournament school record 24 rebounds, a postseason mark that still stands today. When Bam Adebayo hauled in 18 boards vs. Northern 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 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.