Larry Legend is bigger than ever

Basketball icon Larry Bird has emerged on the wall outside downtown’s Copper Bar, courtesy of businessman Greg Gibson and renowned public artist Becky Hochhalter.

Hochhalter is busily recreating the famous Sports Illustrated magazine cover that introduced Bird to America as “College Basketball’s Secret Weapon.”


Artist Becky Hochhalter works on the Larry Bird mural on the side of the Copper Bar on Thursday on Wabash Avenue. Hochhalter was commissioned to paint the mural by developer, philanthropist and longtime Bird friend Greg Gibson. Thanks to the staff of the Terre Haute Convention Center this photo was able to be taken from the roof of the convention center on Thursday.

In it, Bird stands beside two Indiana State University cheerleaders who hold fingers to their lips in a shushing gesture.

The Copper Bar stands in downtown Terre Haute next to the Terre Haute Convention Center and the Larry Bird Museum, which will celebrate its grand opening on May 30. Terri Conley, the Vice President of the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board that oversees the museum, has called Hochhalter’s adjacent mural “the best signage we could’ve asked for.”

Hochhalter was commissioned to paint the mural by developer, philanthropist and longtime Bird friend Gibson.

Gibson just wanted a mural celebrating Bird; it was Hochhalter’s husband Rusty’s idea to recreate the Sports Illustrated cover.

“To give credit where credit is due, he went to a lot of games back in the day,” Hochhalter said. She didn’t personally experience Bird’s halcyon Sycamores era, “unfortunately,” she said, “but for the last 30 years, I’ve been a big ISU fan and have gone to a whole bunch of games.”

Hochhalter’s mural is 33 feet high, which just happens to be a lucky homage to Bird’s number in his playing days. And that’s because the Copper Bar building wall is exactly 33 feet tall.

“I wanted it to be a surprise, as much of a surprise as a 33-foot tall mural can be,” she said. “People watched it unfold and figured it out before I even painted the Sports Illustrated logo. Just seeing the red circle helped them put two and two together.”

“I commissioned this mural as a symbol of our past and a rallying point for our future,” Gibson said in a news release provided by the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. “The iconic image of Larry Bird and the cheerleaders captured in the mural serves as a reminder of a time when Terre Haute and its favorite Sycamore were the best-kept secret in the world of sports.”

He added, “It reflects a moment when our community rallied behind a team and a dream, propelling us onto the national stage and creating a sense of pride.”

Hochhalter said that Copper Bar employees are “thrilled to be part of the museum.

“When I’m working here, they come out every day to watch. They think it’s awesome. It’s been teeming with life around here while I’ve been doing this. People are coming and taking a lot of pictures.”

Hochhalter hopes to complete the mural by the grand opening of the Larry Bird Museum — which celebrates Bird’s career, life and legacy — on May 30.

“That’s the goal,” she said. “It just depends on if the weather cooperates.”

And Bird will address the crowd that gathers for the event from a stage that will have full view of Hochhalter’s mural.

For more information on the mural and the grand opening of the Larry Bird Museum, visit