Remote Replay: The evening Larry Bird broke his face, followed by the…

Remote Replay: The evening Larry Bird broke his face, followed by the…

Perhaps the least significant or elegant game from the Big 3 Celtics era is Game 5 of the 1991 first-round series against the Indiana Pacers. But there’s one reason this game endures in Celtics legend: Larry Bird’s amazing comeback after hitting his head on the parquet floor.

Due to a ruptured disc and compressed nerve in his back, the 34-year-old Bird missed 22 games that season. The pain got so bad that he had to spend the night before Game 5 in traction at the hospital. After the season, Bird underwent back surgery, and the attending physician remarked, “I don’t see how he played with what he had.”

Bird was leading with his ground-bound magic in an elimination game, though, even though it appeared as though he would break apart if he attempted to make a layup. At 4:37 in the second quarter, he was just getting into a rhythm when he dove after a loose ball. With his right hand, Bird attempted to grab hold of it and break his fall, but the hand was unable to do so. He hit the ground hard, landing on his stomach and smashing his head.

In a 2004 article combining his interview with Indiana’s Chuck Person, Bird told the Pacers website, “When I hit the floor, I thought I broke my jaw, because I couldn’t move my mouth.” “Even though I was in excruciating pain, I couldn’t leave those guys out there by themselves because I could hear the crowd.”

As the Pacers ran the floor to draw a foul, Bird remained still, but he soon stood up and made his way back to the locker room. He was informed that his night should end because it turned out he had broken his cheekbone.

“The physician indicated that I most likely had a concussion and they didn’t think I should have gone out there given the damage I had done to my brain and my back,” Bird stated. “I gave it a little shake.”

Halfway through the third quarter, Bird jogged back out to the court and buttoned his white warm-up jacket, which sent the crowd into a frenzy as he crouched in front of the bench. Coach Chris Ford signaled a timeout, and the Garden came alive, greeted the entire check-in procedure with a feverish standing ovation.

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