When he won gold on Dream Team thirty years ago, Larry Bird kept something secret. He was going to take a retirement.

INDIANAPOLIS: Nobody knew what was going through Larry Bird’s mind in the summer of 1992. Bird had a secret when competing against Croatia for the Olympic gold medal in basketball in Barcelona, Spain.


As one of the stars on the USA’s Dream Team, Bird wasn’t just a glorified utility player. He wasn’t just a token addition to the team.

Had he been anybody except Larry Bird, he might not have been on that team at all, or if he was, he might have served as a backup.


Bird was thirty-five. He had played in the NBA for 13 seasons at full tilt, and he was always suffering from back problems.


The Dream Team, which included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley, possessed immense skill even in the absence of Bird.

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However, Bird wasn’t merely a supporting player as the USA defeated Croatia 177-85 to win the gold medal on August 8, 1992. He made a contribution—a significant one. Bird scored the most points for the USA in their third game against Germany (19 points), and he did so while harboring the secret.

“Larry was a formidable opponent,” remarked Bill Benner, an Indianapolis Star sports columnist who covered the Olympics in Barcelona. “He was not window dressing in any shape or form.”


And yet, Bird announced his retirement from basketball ten days after he had celebrated the gold.



The trade secret was revealed. He was no longer able to play the game at the level he desired.


When word broke on August 18, 1992, that Bird was retiring, fans wept. The world of basketball erupted. Opponents praised Bird with songs. Benner remarked that nobody was surprised.


Bird had been spotted flat on the floor by the bench between games for at least two seasons. He was tending to his nagging back.


“It was increasingly difficult for him to be Larry Bird,” stated Benner. “And if Larry Bird is not 100%, his pride is such he wouldn’t have wanted to gradually bow out.” He would not have desired to decline in public view.

Thus, Bird played his last game for the USA rather than the Boston Celtics, for whom he had played for 13 years in the NBA.


Dream Team was really his farewell party, as everyone knew, according to Jake Query, co-host of 107.5 The Fan’s Kevin & Query morning show. “A lot of people knew in their hearts Bird was playing his last game.”


To the Pacers, Bird?The following is what would have occurred in 1978 if Larry Bird had been selected by the Pacers.


“I was aware that this day would arrive.”

“I was aware that this day would arrive.”

The unlikely basketball superstar, raised in the heartland and raised on biscuits and gravy, began his career at the age of eighteen driving trash trucks before developing into a soft-spoken beast on the court and retiring thirty years ago. At the Boston news conference, Bird fought back tears.


Not everyone else in the globe did.


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