Just as defining the greatest player in NBA history is a challenge with answers ranging from Michael Jordan to LeBron James to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, so too is defining who is the most famous player in a franchise’s history. Would it be fair to compare a player from the 1950s to one of the 1990s to a player of today?
With limited media coverage during the early years of the league to the growth of the game on television to today’s instant gratification on social media, knowledge and awareness of a player impacts their level of fame and popularity.
Who Deserves A Shot In The Hall Of Fame?
When it comes to the Boston Celtics, winners of 17 NBA Championships, as well as 37 players in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and 23 jersey numbers hanging in the rafters of TD Garden, the team is arguably one of the most successful sports franchises in all of sport. These accomplishments make pinpointing who the Celtics’ most famous player is a challenge.
As with the classic G.O.A.T argument, maybe the most famous argument should be classified by era. With a limited number of televised games (13 in 1953, 20 in 1954), no internet, and regional print media, comparing it to the seemingly never-ending reach that today’s players have certainly put one group at a distinct disadvantage.
If you regularly search for Boston Celtics sports betting promo codes, you should be familiar with the names below.
Eleven NBA Championships, five MVPs, twelve All-Star Game appearances, and five rebounding titles. One would think with all of those accolades that Bill Russell would be a shoo-in for the most famous member of the Boston Celtics franchise.
Standing at just 6’9”, which was tall for his era, Russell proved that the game could be won on the defensive end of the court, averaging just 15 points a game. A phenomenal athlete, Russell was known for his ability to run the court and finish the transition bucket. However, it would be his 22.5 rebounds and an estimated 6-8 blocks per night (blocks were not an official stat when Russell played) that helped the Celtics become one of the two winningest franchises in the NBA.
A member of all four NBA Anniversary Teams, the admiration, and respect for Russell would be felt league-wide when it was decided that the NBA Finals MVP would be named in his honor. Russell was one of the league’s first African-American superstars and the first to win an NBA Championship as a coach. Following his passing in 2022, the NBA would retire his #6 jersey leaguewide, the only player to hold such an honor.
Unfortunately for Russell he played and lived in an era in which he had to endure a lot of racial abuse and controversy with fans and even the media, causing him to become known for being selfish and uncooperative which hurt his public status.
The Hick From French Lick
Though half of the credit must be given to Earvin “Magic” Johnson (which Celtics fans will probably hate to admit), Larry Bird helped to impact the success of the Boston franchise, but more importantly, the league itself.
He wasn’t the highest of flyers by any means and definitely not the quickest on the court and certainly not the most marketable, but Bird endeared himself to the blue-collar Boston faithful through his grit, determination, and desire for nothing less than a championship. Despite his lack of athleticism, Bird would put on a performance each night, providing the team with whatever it needed. Considering he shared the lineup with three other Hall of Fame teammates, Bird’s contributions were over and above everyone else.
A three-time champion, three-peat MVP, twelve-time All-Star, and Rookie of the Year, Bird was the founding member of the 50/40/90 club, an accomplishment he achieved twice in a row.
Although his offensive arsenal was mostly ground-bound, Bird wowed fans with his shooting, his creative passing, and his ability to back up his infamous trash-talking.
Whereas one made his presence known on the defensive end, the other countered offensively. Yet both endeared themselves to the city of Boston and Celtics fans around the world with their dedication to winning.
One is arguably the greatest winner in team sports, while the other is credited with helping to keep the league alive. As for the answer to the question of who is more famous, the answer is in the eye of the beholder.