Larry Bird donned a Boston Celtics uniform throughout his illustrious career. However, Bird‘s challenging battle through injuries late in his playing days led to internal conversations concerning trade chatter. The discussion guided one of his longtime teammates to suggest to Red Auerbach to move him.
Larry Bird’s illustrious NBA career
Bird spent his entire 13-year NBA career with the Celtics, where he firmly established an all-time great.
The Indiana State product quickly became a star talent behind his all-around play while bringing Boston back to prominence. He won three NBA titles and two Finals MVP awards in five appearances, earned three regular-season MVP awards, and received 12 All-Star selections and nine All-NBA First Team nods.
Bird’s tenure with the Celtics could have transpired quite differently if one of his teammates had gotten his way.
Larry Bird would never have finished his Hall of Fame career with the Celtics if it was up to a former teammate
Bird experienced tremendous success leading the Celtics through his first several seasons.
However, injuries began to pile up in the latter portion of the 1980s, including missing all but six games in the 1988-89 campaign due to surgery to remove bone spurs from each ankle. During an interview on the BS Report podcast with Bill Simmons in February 2013, Bird revealed longtime teammate Danny Ainge told then-team president Red Auerbach to trade them.
“The one thing about Red was loyalty,’ Bird said. “That’s why I never wanted to leave there because I always knew he had my back. He cared for me. He wanted me to do well. He wanted me to play at a high level. I was with Danny, Red, and Kevin McHale the day we were talking about that. The one thing that Danny threw in there was player’s names.
“The whole time I was in Boston, I never heard Red mention any other players from other teams. I heard him talking about draft picks, but I never heard him say, ‘Larry I can trade you for this, this, and this.’ He just never did that. Danny did tell Red he should trade us right now because we don’t have that much left in the tank.”
Bird may not have been the player was earlier in his career, but he was still one of the league’s top talents. Injuries hindered him, but it didn’t prevent him from putting his all on the floor for the Celtics.
If Boston had made Bird available, many teams would have lined up to acquire him. He retained much value and was still an All-Star-level talent. Ultimately, it was loyalty from Auerbach that kept Bird in a Celtics uniform.
Larry Bird guided the Celtics to success despite injuries
The Celtics’ decision to hold onto Bird resulted in the franchise experiencing sustained success.
The star forward guided Boston to three straight playoff appearances in his final three full seasons despite nagging back issues. He earned three All-Star game selections and an All-NBA Second Team nod.
The team won at least 50 regular-season games in each campaign while securing the Atlantic division title in both of his last two seasons. However, Boston failed to get past the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Bird battled injuries as he missed 22 games in the 1990-91 campaign due to a compressed nerve root in his back after leading the Celtics to a hot start behind a 29-5 record. After the season, he underwent an operation to remove a disc from his back, but the pain persisted.
His final year saw him miss 37 games, including four out of the seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although his last few campaigns didn’t feature championship success, he kept the Celtics relevant.