When Celtics legend Larry Bird saw a huge new painting of himself on the side of a building in Indianapolis, he wasn’t happy.
The mural, which is about two stories tall, showed Bird sporting a multitude of tattoos. There was a spider web on his shoulder. A Celtics logo on his arm. The letters “BIRD” on his fingers. The word “Indiana” on his left forearm. A pair of rabbits mating on his right forearm. And a cardinal on his cheek.
Bird wanted the tattoos removed from the mural. So he sent a photo of the painting to his attorney, Gary Sallee.
“Larry sent a picture of it to me and asked that I get involved,” Sallee said in a telephone interview.
Sallee said they’ve since reached a compromise with Jules Muck, the artist who created the mural, and she has agreed to remove all of the tattoos except for one: the word “Indiana” will remain on Bird’s left forearm.
“The Celtics clover leaf will be removed, the fornicating bunnies . . . all of those things that didn’t seem appropriate,” Sallee said. “They will be gone.”
Sallee said Muck was open to making the changes.
“When I mentioned it to the artist, she totally understood,” he said. “She said she has great respect for Larry.”
Sallee said Bird also respects the artist’s work.
“Larry understands the price of being a celebrity,” he said. “He was OK with all of that. He just didn’t want this to harm the brand that he has built over the years.
“It’s never been contentious. Larry understands her role, and she understands his desires. I thought it was a fair compromise that they reached.”
The mural on Prospect Street in Fountain Square just went up last week. It was based on an outtake from Bird’s first Sports Illustrated cover photo shoot in 1977, which shows Bird wearing his blue Indiana State uniform and putting his left index finger to his lips, as if to say “shhh.” The tattoos were Muck’s creative touch.
Muck said she was surprised when she heard from Bird’s attorney.
“I have no problem coming to a compromise . . . I’m not trying to upset anyone,” Muck said in a telephone interview. “They were actually really kind.”
Muck said she’s used to receiving all kinds of feedback on her artwork, but this was the first time that the subject of one of her paintings has requested that she make specific changes.
Muck said she plans to remove the tattoos from the mural this week.
“I’m going to do it as soon as possible,” she said.