Larry Bird had been bothered by back problems for years, and his back became progressively worse. After leading the Boston Celtics to a 29–5 start to the 1990–91 season, he missed 22 games due to a compressed nerve root in his back, a condition that would eventually lead to his retirement. He had off-season surgery to remove a disc from his back, but his back problems continued and he missed 37 games during the 1991–92 season. His past glory would be briefly rekindled, however, in a game that season in which he scored 49 points in a double-overtime victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. During the 1992 Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bird missed four of the seven games in the series due to those recurring back problems.
He finished his career with averages of more than 24 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists per game, while shooting 49.6% from the field, 88.6% from the free throw line and 37.6% from three-point range. Following Bird’s departure, the Celtics promptly retired his jersey #33.