In their long and storied history it is difficult to pick just one player in the franchise history and call them the best. You can make arguments in many different directions, but to me I can only judge what I have seen with my own eyes, and that is that Larry Bird is definitely the best Boston Celtic ever.
It all began in 1979 when Red Auerbach, the patriarch of Boston Celtics greatness used a now defunct rule to draft Larry Bird a year before he was done with college. The Celtics would have to wait a year to get the help Bird could supply to their sagging franchise, while he finished his senior year at Indiana State. It often seemed that Auerbach had a magic touch when it comes to personnel moves. As Bird led his Indiana State team through a college season for the ages, the Celtics were struggling through one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Talk about cheap sports tickets! There was little demand to watch the woeful Celtics of 1979, but things were about to change.
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From the moment Larry Bird walked into the Celtics locker room to the moment he left, they were always a factor in who would inevitably win the NBA Championship. It wasn’t only Bird’s ability to play the game of basketball; it was all of the intangible things he brought with him. He was one of the best clutch shooters in history, always seemingly hitting shots when the game was at its most pivotal point. Bird also seemed to bring out the best in his teammates, he made other players better. From Kevin McHale to Robert Parish to Greg Kite, no matter how good those players were coming in, they always played to a higher level once teamed with Larry Bird. But probably the greatest asset Bird possessed was his burning desire to win. There didn’t seem to be any limit to the inner fire that propelled him to basketball greatness. When he was challenged by the greats of the game, Magic Johnson, Bernard King, Isaiah Thomas or Michael Jordan, they all challenged Bird in his time and he responded with a superior effort to prove once and for all that he was the best. Suddenly those low priced tickets at the Boston Garden were a thing of the past, as watching this basketball genius became the thing to do in Boston.
Finally, it was his burning desire to be the best and give the game everything that he had that ultimately cost Bird. You can’t continually dive into bleachers and take extreme physical punishment night after night without paying a price. Eventually after the 1992 Olympics, Larry Bird finally gave into his many physical woes and retired leaving a legacy of greatness behind him that may never be duplicated. You are talking about a man who wasn’t fast, but beat fast players. A man who couldn’t jump, dominating those who were blessed with that skill. Bird continually defied the odds, and I think that is why so many admire him. Even though it looked like he couldn’t possibly succeed, he found a way through sheer will to finish first. If Bird can do this in the Basketball arena then it was believable that we could do the same thing in our own area of expertise.
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When Larry Bird was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1998, he had accomplished everything he wanted to as a player. Rookie of the year, league MVP three times, Finals MVP, Hall of Famer, US Olympic Champion and probably the most important to him NBA Champion three times in 1981, 1984 and 1986. Bird wasn’t done with greatness as a player either, he is the only person to win NBA Most Valuable Player award, Coach of the year award and NBA executive of the year. It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that Larry Bird is defined by success and provides inspiration for everybody to draw from. It truly provides inspiration for anybody to succeed in anything that they have a burning passion for.
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