Otis Birdsong

Student-Athlete
Inducted 2006

Basketball in Polk County has come a long way since the 1970s, and its athletes have had an outstanding role model in former Winter Haven High School star Otis Birdsong.

Birdsong scored 17 points per game as a junior in 1972 to help the team to a best-ever 27-2 record. The next year, he led the Blue Devils to a Class 4A state championship, scoring 1,062 points in 33 games for a 32.2 average. Birdsong also averaged 10.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game in his senior season, and scored 59 points in a game against Haines City High School.

The 6-3 guard quickly excelled at the University of Houston, where he became the first sophomore to score 1,000 points. He led the team in scoring three straight seasons and scored 2,832 points for a 24.4-point average over his career; both figures are still second on the all-time list. Birdsong also holds the record for career free throws with 480, and had five 40-point games and 36 more 30-point games. He was named a consensus All-American in 1977 after leading Houston to an NIT runner-up finish. Birdsong was later named Southwest Conference Player of the Decade for the 1970s, and his jersey is retired.

The second player chosen in the 1977 NBA Draft, Birdsong played four years for the Kansas City Kings and led in scoring three times. He averaged 24.6 points per game for the Kings in 1980-81, including a 49-point game against Denver, and finished sixth in scoring in the league. Over his career, which also included stops with the New Jersey Nets and the Boston Celtics, Birdsong scored more than 14,000 career points in 12 seasons and was a four-time NBA All-Star. He was the first guard to make more than $1 million in a season, and finished his career with a 51.9 field goal percentage.

Birdsong retired from the NBA in 1989. He provided broadcast analysis for the University of Houston before moving to Dallas to become the director of events and promotions for Roger Staubach's Personalities and Promotions International for eight years, where he worked with fantasy and children's camps. He is currently the president and general manager of the NBA Development League’s Arkansas RimRockers in Little Rock.

Birdsong was ranked No. 2 on the All-Century Team by the Tampa Tribune and was also named Polk County's Greatest Athlete in 1999 by the Ledger. He is a member of the University of Houston Hall of Honor and the Polk County Hall of Fame.