Apart from being a phenomenal basketball player, Larry Bird was also one of the toughest guys who played every game like his last. Bird built up a reputation of being extremely competitive and a great trash talker who was always able to back up anything he was saying to the opposing players throughout the years.
In one of his older interviews at the tail end of his career, Bird talked about his competitive edge and where it comes from. For him, it was always a way to motivate himself first and foremost, but for others, it meant they are in big trouble when Larry is fired up.
I was taught at an early age to try and get all the advantage that you can. It helps me feel better, and it gives me confidence, and I don't talk as much as I used to because I can't back it up as I used to. It gets me fired up, and I don't know if it does anything to the opponent; it fires me up.
Only a few players in NBA history played with the same amount of passion as Larry did, and that was his trademark from his first to last NBA game. In Bird's mind, every play mattered, which led him to do crazy things during games. For example, there wasn't a loose ball situation in which Bird wouldn't dive in to get the ball, which eventually caused him to have so many injuries in later stages of his career. Even though he knew that playing style was hurting him in the long run, Bird didn't care, saying that was the only way he knew how to play.
I remember when I first came to the league and played against Artis Gilmore, he told me I wouldn't last very long if I keep diving around. It has caught up with me. I do dive a lot and spend a lot of time on the floor. That is why I have so many injuries, but that is the way I play, and I will not stop playing like that.
Bird retired after the 1991/92 season after injuries caught up to him so bad he couldn't play like his former self. There were moments in his last season where it seemed he was still at least one step ahead of everyone, despite playing through serious back injuries. Larry was still in love and passionate about the game, but soon his body didn't allow him to perform on a level he was accustomed to. He decided to retire but still stayed connected with the game through coaching and managing teams.