PERFECT ENDING TO A LEGENDARY TALE
The Larryfest was everything one could have imagined. It was a parquet coronation, a high-top Woodstock. It was Boston basketball's lifetime achievement award. Boston last night said ''thank you'' to an athlete who thrilled the Celtic fandom for 13 seasons. In a celebration of inaugural proportions, Larry Bird's No. 33 was hoisted to the rafters, where it will sway in the stale air alongside those of Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, John Havlicek and other Garden gods who delivered 16 world championships to our city.
"Tonight I leave," Bird told his loyal legion at the conclusion of the 2 1/2-hour love-in. "I leave basketball forever. I leave the game that I love. I'm saying good night, Boston. And may God bless each and every one of you."
He was done. He scooped up his one-year-old son, Connor, and ducked into the center court runway he's known so well for so many years. That was it. Larry had left the court in his Celtic warmups for the very last time.
It would be difficult for any outsider to come to Boston and comprehend this city's unique attachment to a tall young man from Indiana. How do we explain a Boston skyscraper tower with night lights in a configuration of "33"? Unless you were here for the last 13 years, there's no way you could understand what the Larryfest was about.
Let's face it, Larry Bird never won a war; he didn't feed the poor or heal the sick. In our city's 20th century history, there was nothing like this for James Michael Curley, John F. Kennedy, Arthur Fiedler, Ted Williams or Bobby Orr.
Bird's mother, Georgia, said, "Whoever thought there'd be such a fuss about this little blond-headed boy?"
Bird's famous final scene was everything he and his fans could have wanted…Most of all, there were the people.
Bird could look over and see his mom, who stretched the family budget to buy him those Redball Jet sneakers.
He could look over at brother Mark, who started the family tradition of wearing No. 33…. He could look over and see Magic Johnson, his Left Coast rival, Olympic teammate and lifelong hardcourt brother.
Wearing his Laker warmups, Magic came out for one last summit meeting. Magic had a Celtic T-shirt under the purple-and-gold LA gear. It was something to see the two standing under the bright lights, wearing their old team colors. The only thing missing was a basketball.
Bird said, "There's no question Magic's probably the best player I've ever seen. I knew he was watching me, because I was watching him.
"We had a great time," Bird told Magic. "And it's all over, buddy."Boston Globe, February 5, 1993.