Larry Bird came out of nowhere and dominated the 1991 NBA playoff series against the Celtics. He was rewarded with a six-year, $6 million contract by new coach Brian Hill who had previously been trying to coax him into retirement.
Larry Bird is considered by many to be one of the best NBA players of all time. He played for the Celtics for his entire career, and retired in 1992. Read more in detail here: when did larry bird retire.
Larry Bird’s career with the Boston Celtics was coming to an end in 1991.
Bird was struggling to remain on the court after years of injuries and a crippling back ailment. During the 1990-91 season, he appeared in 60 games and was named to the All-Star team. Over the course of a complete season, though, Larry Legend had his lowest scoring average (19.4) and field-goal percentage (45.4%).
An elderly Bird had a difficult time leading a Celtics team on the verge of change. Even when the Hick from French Lick seemed to be done during a first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, he showed the type of fortitude that has made him one of the NBA’s most renowned and respected personalities.
In the decisive game of a first-round series between the Celtics and the Pacers, Larry Bird banged his skull.
Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics sits at the scorer’s table before reentering a game | Bob Stowell/Getty Images
During the first four games of Boston’s 1991 first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, Bird’s body had already been put through the wringer.
In Game 1, the Celtics great went 6-of-20 from the field. He did, however, record a triple-double and heroically led Boston to victory with remarkable grit. He used so much energy that his back ached, prompting a trip to the local hospital.
Bird struggled to rediscover his game despite his heroics. When the Pacers won Game 4, he shot a total 11-of-31 in the following two games, leaving his team in need of a deciding game.
In Game 5, things didn’t get off to a good start for Bird.
Larry Legend was stripped late in the second quarter as he drew up for a jumper at the free-throw line. He dived for the ball, smashing his head on the parquet floor in the process. As the Pacers sprinted to the opposite end of the floor, Bird lay unmoving on the hardwood. He was eventually transported to the locker room to be evaluated.
The Hall of Famer’s homecoming was questioned by doctors. Bird, however, had not yet completed his last deed, in keeping with his unyielding temperament.
Bird rejected medical advice and successfully guided the Celtics to victory.
Larry Bird may have sustained a concussion as a result of his fall, according to Celtics club physicians. They campaigned to keep Bird off the court, according to Larry Legend (h/t The Athletic).
“The doctor informed me I probably had a concussion and that I shouldn’t go out there with my back and the brain damage I’d done.” “I jiggled it a little.”
–The Athletic, via Larry Bird
That’s all for now.
When Bird emerged from the tunnel halfway through the third quarter, the old Boston Garden exploded. Chris Ford, the former Celtics head coach, even called a timeout to give his elderly hero the the send-off he deserved.
While the 34-year-old was grateful for the gesture, he still had work to do. He rose to the situation in typical Bird way.
Bird finished the third quarter with 12 points, helping the Celtics to a 14-point lead with little over eight minutes left in the game. The Pacers came storming back when Ford placed Bird down for a rest. At the conclusion of the game, Indiana had narrowed the margin to three points. Chuck Person’s game-tying three-point effort, fortunately for the C’s and their fans, clanged against the rim.
So ended a legendary performance. Bird scored 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting while also grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Bird’s iron drive, though, showed his unparalleled tenacity, as powerful as the stats were.
Gutting it out in the face of adversity
Throughout his Celtics career, Larry Bird played despite discomfort. That is not a hyperbole.
Before ever playing a game for Boston, Bird had a hand injury. After the injury, he had to change his shooting technique and never had the same feel for the ball, but he still had one of the best careers in NBA history.
Larry Legend was elbowed in the face during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks in 1982. Later in his career, he had a similar experience against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bird had been dealing with foot difficulties prior to the back injuries, including a poor toe and heel surgery that caused him to miss virtually the entire 1988-89 season.
Then there’s the reality that the Hick from French Lick was a part of the NBA’s most rugged period. He wasn’t hesitant to shake things up, though, sparring with bitter rivals like the Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, and Los Angeles Lakers (even during preseason). During the 1985 playoffs, Bird even got into a bar brawl.
Some men just put on a strong front, yet their track records reveal deception. Bird lived and breathed toughness, and he backed it up with incredible skill. He continued to do so till the conclusion of his career.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
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