Larry Bird‘s NBA career with the Boston Celtics will forever live on as one of the most remarkable basketball careers of all time. But The Legend also had the opportunity to play for the greatest team ever assembled.
The group the United States sent to the 1992 Olympics — known only as the Dream Team — was the most incredible collection of talent ever put together, and it ran rampant through the best teams in the world on its way to a gold medal in Barcelona.
A 35-year-old Bird was on the roster that summer. But by that point, back injuries had taken their toll, and his career was on its last legs. And Larry knew it.
He acknowledged the incredible honor of representing his country. But he was also well aware that he was already finished with basketball.
And, Bird admitted, no medal of any kind would ever top his time with the Celtics.
Larry Bird was a member of the greatest basketball team ever assembled in 1992
The 1992 United States Olympic Basketball Team is known as the Dream Team for a reason. It was an unbelievable collection of historic talent.
The ’92 Olympics was the first time NBA players were allowed to participate.
And USA Basketball took full advantage.
Bird and Magic Johnson were on the roster during the twilights of their careers. But the team also included Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, David Robinson, John Stockton, and Clyde Drexler. (And Christian Laettner?)
Most importantly: The GOAT himself, Michael Jordan, smack dab in the middle of his prime, was the team’s best player. And what’s more is that Charles Barkley was the player who actually led the team in scoring and rebounding, per Sporting News.
The Legend played all eight games and averaged 18.6 minutes despite his body failing him. He took a back seat to the younger stars and averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds on 52.1% shooting.
But he was a leader and staple of something amazing.
The Dream Team dominated the world on the way to Olympic gold
Team USA scored 136 points in its first game together, a 79-point win over Cuba in the Tournament of the Americas. According to Sporting News, the group won the tournament with an average margin of victory of 51.5 points.
As far as the Olympics go? The United States was the first team in history to score at least 100 points in every game and averaged 117.3, according to Olympics.com, winning by an average of 43.8 points.
Bird — one of the team’s co-captains along with Johnson — led his team to a 117-85 win over Croatia in the Gold Medal Game.
“Winning the gold medal has to be one of the greatest things you can ever do as an athlete,” said Bird via Olympics.com. “The enjoyment for me was just being there for the Olympics. I had been on teams with some of these guys, but this was the Olympics. It was special.”
But as The Hick From French Lick would go on to acknowledge, not as special as his days in Boston.
Larry Bird admitted his legendary basketball career ended with the Boston Celtics, not the Dream Team
After the Olympics and after Bird officially retired, he sat down with Bob Ryan, then of The Boston Globe. During their interview, the subject of the Dream Team came up.
Sure, The Legend admitted, the Olympics were a great honor, and it was an amazing time. But it wasn’t in Boston, and he wasn’t with the Celtics.
As Ryan wrote:
He dragged himself through limited playoff duty, and then he got himself to the Olympics. “Sure, I wanted to. I was 35, and it was a great honor, to play for your country.”
But don’t ask him for any game reminiscences. “There’s nothin’ to talk about,” he says. “You can’t spend 12 days at one thing and say it was the best time of your life. Those 13 years with the Celtics were the greatest time of my life.
“When I left the Celtics, I left basketball. My career ended when I left the Boston Celtics.”Larry Bird to Bob Ryan on his Celtics basketball career and playing with the Dream Team
The Dream Team is the single most talented group of basketball players ever to take the floor together. It dominated on the world stage, won an Olympic Gold Medal, and changed the course of basketball forever.
But even with all that, Bird had no problem admitting that the Celtics were home, and when he left Boston, he left basketball behind.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.