Larry Bird battled chronic back pain and other ailments in the later years of his career, as the original Big Three labored to win that elusive fourth title. The decline in Bird’s abilities mirrored those of the team’s.
Bird’s 1988-89 season ended after just six games when he had surgery to remove bone spurs from both heels. The back issues caused him to miss 59 combined games from 1990-92.
The most dramatic moment of this era came in Game 5 against the Pacers in the 1991 Eastern Conference quarterfinals on May 5. The game was tied 58-58 after Bird had exited after banging his head in the second quarter, laying on the parquet for what seemed like weeks.
Indiana led 82-79 before Bird charged onto the court. All he needed was the “S” on his chest. The Garden crowd went bonkers. Boston went on a 33-14 run before the Pacers came back to cut it one in the final seconds. The Celtics ended up notching a 124-121 victory but would lose to Detroit in the next round.