On August 18, 1992, Larry Bird officially retired from playing the game of basketball. Sure, he would still dabble in the occasional awe-inspiring shoot-around, but his days wearing number 33 for the Celtics were at an end. A typically stoic Bird (wearing one of the most ’90s shirts of all time) told the media that he was done in the press conference seen above. It came only ten days removed from the 1992 USA men’s Olympic basketball team (commonly known as the “Dream Team”) handily defeating Croatia to win the gold medal by a definitive 35-point margin. It would be his last competitive basketball game as a player.
It’s notable that Bird’s last game prior to the retirement announcement came wearing a USA jersey, especially since Bird, in 2014, is mired in such a major crisis essentially because of international basketball. The Celtics legend is currently the President of the Indiana Pacers, and as you will undoubtedly recall, they recently lost their star player, small forward Paul George, in one of the most horrific sports injuries ever caught on camera. We really don’t recommend watching, but the video is linked if you must.
George sustained the injury while playing for Team USA, who is preparing for the upcoming FIBA Men’s 2014 Basketball World Cup, to be held in Spain. The significance of the injury coming with Team USA has subsequently attracted a level of criticism. Why, after all, should a million-dollar player lend his services on a team that has zero value to his actual employer, risking the type of serious injury that George sustained?
Bird, echoing the mentality that he’s constantly had since playing for the Dream Team, remained steadfast in his support of basketball players representing their country.
“I support USA Basketball. I always have, and I always will,” Bird told Indiana media after George’s injury. “We send our best.”
It echoes a mentality that he explained after getting his gold medal at the end of the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games in the fantastic documentary about the Dream Team:
As a young kid growing up, I used to watch the Olympics on TV with my father, and all he used to talk about was the Star Spangled Banner, and the gold medal. Made him feel proud to be American. Being up on that podium that night, and receiving it [the gold medal]… my father, he’d have been pretty proud.
It’s an underrated fact that Bird, who achieved so much and won so often playing for the Celtics, scored his final meaningful points wearing Red, White, and Blue:
It’s a cause he clearly still believes in, no matter the adversity.
As a last note, here’s the Dream Team documentary, in case you’re curious (it has some amazing footage).
Bonus, because why not?