Michael Jordan Stuck up for an Aging Larry Bird at the 1992 Olympic Games

The 1992 Dream Team was the last hurrah for Larry Bird. He played on the greatest basketball team ever assembled with the U.S. men’s basketball team at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain. When the team returned with the gold medal, Bird called it quits after a 13-year NBA career.

Many believed Bird made the Dream Team as a sentimental choice. Don’t tell Michael Jordan that.

Michael Jordan and Larry Bird had their share of battles

Larry Bird, left, of the Boston Celtics and Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls sit on a bench circa 1990 during an NBA All-Star game. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Bird and Jordan had mutual respect for each other. They came into the league five years apart but still managed to put together some memorable moments on the court.

During the 1985-86 season, Jordan’s second in the league, the Bulls guard missed most of the campaign after breaking his foot in the third game of the year. He came back for the final 15 games of the regular season and managed to vault the Bulls into the postseason despite finishing with 30 wins.

Jordan put up 49 points in the series opener against the Boston Celtics, but the Bulls were outclassed 123-104. In Game 2, Jordan put on a show. He set a playoff record with 63 points in a 135-131 double-overtime loss. Jordan’s outburst certainly grabbed Bird’s attention.

“I would never have called him the greatest player I’d ever seen if I didn’t mean it,” Bird told The Boston Globe. “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

Jordan and Bird met six times in the playoffs, and the Celtics won every time. During the regular season, they faced off 28 times with Jordan scoring 40 or more points in six of those meetings. Bird, however, owned a 17-11 record, according to Stathead.com.

Michael Jordan stuck up for Larry Bird at the 1992 Olympics

Larry Bird was 35 years old as a member of the 1992 Dream Team. A back injury hindered him the last couple of seasons. He missed 37 games during the 1991-92 season. Bird played hard throughout his 13-year career, but those injuries caught up with him and eventually forced him into retirement.

He did make one final appearance with the Dream Team in 1992. Many have said it was the greatest collection of talent ever assembled on a basketball court. They dominated their way to the gold medal, defeating their opponent by an average of 44 points per game.

Jordan, Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, and Christian Laettner made up the team. During their time in Barcelona, a reporter interviewed Jordan and offered his opinion that Bird was a symbolic choice for the team.

Jordan wasn’t too happy with that thought and fired back at the reporter.

“I don’t care how old or in pain Larry Bird is,” said Jordan, according to Sports Illustrated. “You name me a forward in this league who’s not already on the team who can rebound, throw the outlet pass to get the break going, shoot the three-pointer, play in the half-court and has the presence of Bird.”

Bird called it a career after the Olympic Games

None of the players on that Dream Team was overworked in Barcelona. Many of those games were over by halftime. Despite his age and the back issues, Bird still played the game the only way he knew how — to win. He played hard when he was on the floor.

The 1991-92 NBA season was Bird’s last. After the Games, Bird announced his retirement from the NBA. Four years later, Bird was voted to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. In 1998, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was a 12-time NBA All-Star, the Rookie of the Year, a three-time MVP, and a three-time champion. Bird played until the very end and deserved to be in Barcelona.

Just ask Michael Jordan.

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