On August 18, 1992 the great Larry Bird announced his retirement from the NBA. A Boston Celtics legend and one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bird was a basketball hero of mine and single-handedly got me interested in the game as a child. When he retired 20 years ago today, I was 14 years old--old enough to know what was happening, but not mature enough to grasp the concept that an icon was leaving the game for good.
Bird finished his 13-year career playing in 897 games with career average of 24.3 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game, and 6.3 assists per game. He shot .496 from the field, .376 from the three-point line, and boasted a .886 free-throw percentage. To say his career was phenomenal would still be an understatement.
Bird along with Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson can be credited with making the NBA what it is today in terms of popularity. When both entered the league in the late 1970s the NBA was suffering from poor attendance and minimal television interest. It was the Lakers vs. Celtics, and more specifically Magic vs. Bird through the 1980s that rejuvenated the league. Basketball became exciting again as the two teams continually battled it out for the title. It is difficult to think of a rivalry greater than this.
After his final season, Bird joined fellow NBA stars Johnson, Michael Jordan, and others to represent the United States in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. It was the first time in Olympic history the United States sent professional athletes to compete in the games. The squad was referred to as the "Dream Team" where they went on to win the gold medal in men's basketball.
Larry Bird is the reason I cheer for the likes of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo today. It is players like him, that was a super-hero me as a child, that allowed me to develop a lifelong love for the game--and especially the Celtics.
More Boston Celtics Commentary from Paul Rados:
All data provided by NBA.com