BILL RUSSELL: 11 TITLES IN 13 YEARS; IMMEASUABLE IMPACT OFF THE COURTBy Chris Forsberg
The city of Boston is in the process of designing a statue that will sit in City Hall Plaza and honor Celtics legend Bill Russell. It's long overdue, and yet there's one thing holding up the process: No one knows what it should look like.
Not only was Russell the best Celtics player in team history, his impact extended off the court with his role in local civil rights and mentoring children. For all that he did for Boston, Russell is inarguably the region's greatest sports star.
Start on the court, where Russell did nothing but win. Before he arrived in Boston, Russell led the University of San Francisco to 55 consecutive wins and back-to-back NCAA titles, then struck gold in the 1956 Olympics.
Russell won a ridiculous 11 titles in 13 NBA seasons with Boston. A 12-time All-Star and five-time MVP, Russell essentially redefined the center position with his defense-first focus and rebounding abilities. Russell never averaged less than 18.6 rebounds per game in a season and is the Celtics' all-time rebound leader (21,620). Over the final two years of his career, Russell served as player/coach -- the first African-American head coach in professional sports after he took over for Red Auerbach -- and won titles in both seasons.
Just how much impact did Russell have on those teams? The season after he retired at age 35, the Celtics went 34-48 and missed the playoffs for the first time in two decades.
Off the court, Russell worked hard to mentor local students and keep them on the right track. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama bestowed upon Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, for his impact on civil rights, particularly in Boston.
"I hope that one day in the streets of Boston, children will look up at a statue built not only to Bill Russell the player, but Bill Russell the man," Obama said.
The city of Boston has commissioned three local statue artists to create potential designs for the Russell bronze. They will be unveiled later this year, and the Bill Russell Legacy Committee will select the best one.
It's a daunting task. How do you encapsulate Russell in one pose, one crystallized moment? It's impossible and speaks to why Russell is the region's greatest sports figure of all time.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.
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BOBBY ORR: PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HE TURNED BOSTON INTO A HOCKEY TOWNBy Joe McDonald
Bobby Orr is simply the greatest athlete in the history of professional sports in Boston.
His accomplishments can't be matched by the likes of Bill Russell or Ted Williams. Sure, these three make up the Holy Trinity of the sports landscape here, but Orr is atop my list.
Orr and the Bruins didn't win as many championships as Russell did with the Celtics, but Orr's impact changed the game and cemented Boston as a hockey town.
Growing up in a hockey family, it didn't take me long to learn about Bobby Orr.
My mom would always talk about how handsome he was and how much fun it was to watch him play. My dad, like many other hockey-crazed fans in New England, considered him (still does) the greatest hockey player of all time. And my older brother and I would fight over who would be No. 4 during our backyard hockey games. Of course, he usually won that battle.
Orr had the same impact on families throughout the region.
In the 1970s and early '80s, hockey rinks were popping up all over New England because of the Bruins and Bobby Orr.
When his career sadly and prematurely ended due to knee injuries, his impact on the game continued and remains today.
There were many defining moments during the Bruins' Stanley Cup season in 2011, but one that will always stand out is when Orr stood in the stands prior to Game 4 of the Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden and waved a No. 18 Nathan Horton flag.
The noise that moment generated was deafening and served as a motivational force for the remainder of the finals. It was reminiscent of the night at the old Garden when Orr's No. 4 was retired and he received the longest, loudest ovation Boston sports has ever heard.
My point is this: Orr's impact on Boston and its fans has been there from the first day he became a Bruin and has never gone away. He won only two championships (in 1970 and 1972), but his legacy remains intact.
There's no denying Russell is a great champion and a great human being as well. He had to deal with issues in this city that no other professional athlete could understand.
But when it comes down to which athlete made the biggest impact on this city and its fans, and still has the ability to do so today, Orr is the easy choice.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.
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