On this day in Boston Celtics history, legendary Celtics forward Larry Bird, one of the greatest to play the game in the history of the NBA, retired from the game as a player in 1992. Plagued by back problems, the “Hick from French Lick” (as he was called) quit playing at age 35 after three titles, three Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, two NBA Finals MVPs, a dozen NBA All-Star nods, and 10 All-NBA team elections among many other honors.
Bird had played his college ball at Indiana State after a short stint at Indiana University, winning National College Player of the Year at the former in 1979.
He would be drafted out of Indiana State with the sixth overall pick of the 1978 NBA draft by the Celtics, the only NBA team he would play for.
“The last couple of years have been very tough on me, on my back and on my body,” Bird related at a press conference to announce his retirement (via the New York Times’ Clifton Brown).
“It was very hard to deal with, day in and day out. Unfortunately, it all came down to this. I would have liked to have played a little bit longer, maybe a year or two more, but there was just no way possible I was going to be able to do that. So, today, I’m retiring.”
In many ways, the excitement around the career of Bird and his rivalry with Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson helped save the NBA from semi-obscurity, setting the stage for the super-stardom of Michael Jordan in the 1990s.
“There is no way to quantify the impact that Larry Bird has had on the game of basketball,” said then-NBA commissioner David Stern.
“With his intensity, dedication, competitiveness and will to win, he has been the ultimate team player in the quintessential team sport. Quite simply, Larry Bird has helped to define the way a generation of basketball fans has come to view and appreciate the N.B.A. “
“In the future, great players will be judged against the standards he has set, but there will never be another Larry Bird,” added Stern.
It is also the day of the death of former Celtics forward Don Eliason, who passed away on this date in 2003.
A product of Hamline University, Eliason joined the NFL after college as one of a small group of people who have played in that league and the NBA (or as it was known in that era, the Basketball Association of America/BAA) before serving in the US Army in World War II.
Eliason returned to sports in 1946, joining Boston in its inaugural BAA season the same year he rejoined the NFL.
His stint with the Celtics was as brief as they come, playing just one game with the team and recording a single foul in that contest.
Finally, it is also the date that Boston small forward Bob Bigelow passed away in 2020.
Bigelow — a native of Boston — played at the NCAA level with the University of Pennsylvania before being drafted by the (then) Kansas City Kings (now, Sacramento).
Bigelow would be waived by the Kings in November of 1977 and signed as a free agent by the Celtics in February of the following year, playing four games for the team.
He averaged 1.5 points and a rebound per game over that stretch.
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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire