Bird soars one last time for fans at Boston Garden

February 05, 1993|By New York Daily News

BOSTON -- Finally, after almost 2 1/2 hours, it was time for Larry Bird to say thank you and goodbye. "I've been very fortunate," he began, but the crowd wasn't ready for the last act of this remarkable retirement party.

"We love you, Larry," a hoarse voice called from the darkness of Boston Garden. "Love you, Larry," another yelled.

Bird, pacing the stage erected between the three-point arcs, stopped himself. "I know what you're trying to do," he said into his hand mike. "You're trying to make me cry and you probably will."

He didn't cry, though. Too many laughs during the evening, for that, or too many clips of Bird at his best. He said he would miss "running the pick and roll with Robert Parish."

Would miss, "most of all, the fans and people of Boston."

He spoke for almost five minutes, pacing, pushing his free hand against his pants leg. "Tonight, I leave," he said. "I leave basketball forever. I leave the game I love. I dedicated my life to basketball. To the Boston Celtics. To the fans of Boston."

The sweetest part of the evening was the 20 or so minutes that belonged to Bird and Magic Johnson, who came out in his Lakers' gold warm-up suit. They embraced while the crowd roared, and might still be roaring if the two great players hadn't climbed onto their stools.

The only time Bird left the stage during the ceremony was to hoist the banner bearing his number, 33, to the Boston Garden ceiling. It was 9:52 p.m., just about the time basketball games here end.

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