The last few years of Larry Bird‘s illustrious career were a brutal battle through nagging injuries. Despite his body breaking down, Bird played 13 seasons. In his final campaign, he pushed through those issues and wearing a back brace to record a magical 49-point triple-double performance that helped push the Celtics to the playoffs.
Larry Bird forced into retirement due to nagging back issues
Bird spent 13 seasons with the Celtics, where he established himself as one of the game’s greatest players.
The star forward won three NBA titles and two Finals MVP awards, earned three regular-season MVP awards, and received 12 All-Star selections and nine All-NBA First Team nods.
However, Bird’s last few seasons were hampered by nagging injuries as his body continued to break down. He was forced into retirement following the 1991-92 season after being limited to 45 games due to nagging back problems.
Before playing his final NBA game, Bird put together a jaw-dropping performance despite wearing a back brace.
Larry Bird dropped a 49-point triple-double while wearing a back brace as the Celtics chased a 1992 playoff spot: ‘He was in serious pain’
As Bird moved through his final season, he struggled to play through a bothersome back injury.
He missed a sizable chunk of the campaign but played through the ailment to lift the Celtics into the playoffs. During a media event honoring Bird, his former teammate Joe Kleine voiced that he remains in awe by the Hall of Famer’s magical 49-point triple-double outing late in the 1991-92 season that pushed Boston closer to the playoffs.
“We were in the playoff hunt and he had a plastic brace on and he got 48 points against Portland,” Kleine said. “He hit the game-winning shot and called it. He was in serious pain. It wasn’t an ankle. It was in serious pain. He did everything [possible].
Bird played through the pain, racking up 49 points on 19-of-35 shooting with 14 rebounds and 12 assists in the 152-148 overtime win. He gritted through the final stretch of the regular season, leading the Celtics to win eight out of their last 10 games to finish with a 51-31 record to win the Atlantic division.
Although Bird’s back flared up in the playoffs, contributing to a second-round playoff exit, Klein still holds the utmost respect toward his longtime teammate’s effort.
“Larry could have hung it up or said this is too much, but he knew how much it meant for us,” Kleine said. “We had no chance without him. He sacrificed a lot of pain and a lot of great things so we could have a chance. We weren’t good enough and we were banged up, but my god the pain he went through to give us a chance. We weren’t going to win a championship, but we had a chance just because of the sacrifice he went through.”
Bird’s career may not have ended on the note he wanted, but he certainly gave it his all.
Illustrious NBA legacy forever etched in stone
Despite injuries derailing his last few campaigns, Bird continued to perform at an elite level, only adding to his iconic legacy.
The Celtics star battled through his body breaking to extend his playing days to 13 seasons. His passion for the game, coupled with his impeccable work ethic, allowed him to construct a legendary career.
Bird played a pivotal part in shaping the league through his rivalry with Los Angeles Laker star Magic Johnson. However, his impact is far-reaching beyond that. He helped lift the NBA to greater heights while cementing himself as one of the most influential figures in basketball history.