Even though Celtics legend Larry Bird played his last couple of seasons with chronic back problems, which limited him to just 45 games during the 1991-92 campaign, his last in the NBA, then 35-year old forward found additional inner strength and motivation to lead the rejuvenated Boston squad.
That season, which began with the sudden departure of his longtime traditional rival Magic Johnson, Larry Legend averaged 20.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists for a 51-31 Celtics squad.
But 1992 postseason was a different story. Faced with Eastern Conference powerhouse Cleveland led by All-Stars Mark Price and Brad Daugherty, and faced with a constant on-ball pressure by defensive specialist Mike Sanders, Bird would score just 12 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists in his final appearance – Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semis. Actually, those numbers are pretty close to his averages for that particular series – 11.3 points, 4.5 boards, and 5.3 dimes.
A couple of months later Bird would unlace his sneakers and say his final ‘Goodbye’ to basketball after winning the gold medal for the original Dream Team in 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where he played a significant role for Team USA averaging 8.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 18.8 minutes per game.
In a 2012 interview to Bill Simmons Bird claimed that if Len Bias, Celtics’ #1 overall pick in 1986 NBA draft, lived on then he (Bird) would have retired already in 1988. Seeing him selflessly sacrifice his body four years later in Richfield Coliseum makes us wonder what were his true boundaries.
Marjan Crnogaj is BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found here.