With Michael Jordan & Co. On Hand, Larry Bird Had the Perfect Response After Being the Forgotten Man on the Dream Team
Many believe the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team was the greatest squad ever assembled. Who can argue? With Michael Jordan leading the way, the team was loaded with the best superstars in the world, including Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Patrick Ewing to round out the starting five. Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, and Chris Mullin were on the bench. Then there was Larry Bird, the forgotten man who was both aging and injured.
Michael Jordan backed Larry Bird at the 1992 Olympics
On the basketball court, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird had been rivals. In his early years, Jordan watched Bird and the Boston Celtics dominate the 1980s in the Eastern Conference. Boston reached the NBA Finals five times in the decade, including four straight years from 1984 to 1987. Jordan and the Bulls became the team of the 1990s, winning six championships, including a pair of three-peats.
In 1992, the two stars became teammates on the Olympics squad, known as the Dream Team. Bird had been riddled with injuries late in his illustrious career. In fact, after the Games in Barcelona, Spain, he officially announced his retirement from the NBA.
During the trip to Barcelona, a reporter asked Jordan if he believed Bird was on the team strictly for sentimental reasons. Jordan wasn’t too pleased with the question.
“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.”
The U.S. team dominated its way to the gold medal. Jordan and his cast of stars won each game by an average of 44 points.
Bird was the forgotten man on the Dream Team
Watching the 1992 Olympic team was exciting and boring at the same time. Flashy plays and high-scoring outputs were the norm, but the results of the games were never in doubt.
In the gold medal game against Croatia, a team they had already crushed by 33 points, the United States led 52-46 at halftime. Bird hadn’t even gotten in the game.
According to Jackie MacMullan’s book When the Game Was Ours, assistant coach P.J. Carlisemo went over to Bird and said, “Hey, Coach (Chuck Daly) forgot about you in the first half. He’s going to start you in the second half.”
Bird laughed. He didn’t care about the lack of playing time. In typical Bird fashion, he had quite the comeback for Daly, the head coach of the Detroit Pistons, a team the Celtics owned for much of the ’80s.
“As many times as I had broken that guy’s heart, you’d think he’d remember,” Bird said.