Thanks to Magic Johnson, the 1992 Dream Team featured the NBA’s biggest talents. The Lakers legend was able to convince Michael Jordan and Larry Bird to join the team after receiving a call from NBA Commissioner David Stern. At the time, Magic was on early retirement but he wanted to play and would only do so with Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.
Both superstars had reasons for not joining the team. Bird was nursing a back injury — no longer the invincible athletic forward he used to be. Eventually, Johnson convinced him.
Larry Bird’s history of back injuries
Bird’s offensive efficiency was not as consistent as it once was, as Sportskeeda reports. As he progressed throughout his NBA career, he became more of a playmaker than a scorer. Bird had experienced 13 seasons against the most muscular wingmen as well as two additional full seasons of playoff games. All of this affected his back, forcing him to retire early at age 35.
Bird’s injury caught his fans by surprise. Initially, he considers it a minor sore back, but the information confused fans even further as he missed 22 of the next 48 games. Bird’s back greatly injured his scoring. Despite the damage, he helped the Celtics advance in the 1991 NBA Playoffs, spending in the hospital instead of celebrating the win.
The Indiana native’s back injury impacted his low field-goal percentage of 45% at the 1991 season’s end. But it did not affect Bird’s leadership abilities as the team depended on him running the offense.
Magic Johnson’s phone call to Larry Bird
The 1992 Dream Team assembled significant NBA icons into one of the best groups of athletes Olympic basketball had ever seen. It was an excellent balance of abilities and influence. Johnson, Bird, and a young Jordan set the example, creating the big three among the prominent players of all time.
However, before they came together, both Jordan and Bird announced they wouldn’t participate in the 1002 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Johnson got to work, determined to play with both Jordan and Bird.
Magic initially got in touch with Bird, acting out his aggressive character. It was going to be the culmination of their competitiveness. Even though Bird stated he was tending to a back injury and wasn’t the sporting individual he once was, Johnson guaranteed to make his work simple. The Laker requested that Bird support the periphery and knock down free throws.
“All you have to do is go stand in the corner or stand at the top of the key,” Johnson told Bird, according to Sportskeeda. “You don’t have to do nothing else. I’m going to get you the ball, all you have to do is shoot it and make it. You can still do that, can’t you?” Ultimately, Bird accepted to join the Dream Team.
The 1992 Dream Team’s performance and Bird’s retirement
Since the team was composed of NBA’s most remarkable talents, every player wanted to prove themselves. The Dream Team team was able to win all eight games and close their campaign with a 117-85 win over Team Croatia.
At a press conference in Boston in August 1992, Bird announced his retirement as his back condition had rendered him unable to play. He didn’t disappear but remained in Boston as a special assistant in Celtics’ front office. Later, he became the team’s President of Basketball Operations.
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