On August 18, 1992, celebrated Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird decided to hang up his sneakers.
Bird was a high school basketball star in Indiana. After graduation, he received a scholarship to play for legendary coach Bobby Knight at Indiana University, one of the best teams in the country. However, Bird was homesick and uncomfortable in Bloomington and left the school after one month. He returned to his hometown, and eventually enrolled at the smaller Indiana State, far from a basketball powerhouse. There, Bird averaged 30 points per game as a sophomore, junior and senior. He led his team to an undefeated record in his senior season (1978-79) before losing to Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans in the most viewed NCAA title game ever.
Bird entered the NBA in 1979 and had an immediate impact on the league, winning Rookie of the Year after leading the Celtics to a 61-21 record and first place in the Atlantic Division. In his second season, Bird, playing alongside future Hall of Famers Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish led the Celtics to an NBA title. They would win the championship again in 1984 and 1986, with Bird winning the Finals MVP each of those two years. He was the NBA regular season MVP three years in a row, from 1984 to 1986, and a first-team NBA All-Star nine times. Bird began to suffer from chronic back pain that limited his playing time and his effectiveness.
The final triumph of Bird’s career came at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, his first Olympics, and the first in which professional players were allowed to participate. The Dream Team, which also included Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley among other NBA greats won the gold medal.
In 1992, at the age of 35, Bird decided that it is time to retire, as his back problems didn’t allow him to play anymore. At an emotional press conference in Boston to announce his retirement, he explained the reasons, which affected the most of his decision.
“The last couple years have been very tough on me, on my back and my body,” he said at his retirement press conference. “It was very hard to deal with day in and day out, and unfortunately it all came down to this. I would’ve liked to have played a little bit longer, maybe a year or two more, but there was just no way possible I was going to be able to do that.”