ESPN boston: Hall of Fame

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ESPN Boston Hall of Fame

The five inductees to the inaugural class of the ESPN Boston Hall of Fame (with percent of the nearly 50,000 fan votes):

1. Larry Bird (73.8%)
2. Ted Williams (69.0%)
3. Bill Russell (64.0%)
4. Bobby Orr (50.2%)
5. Red Auerbach (46.4%)

And here are the next five, the early favorites for the 2012 Hall class:

Rocky Marciano (24.1%)
Carl Yastrzemski (19.4%)
Ray Bourque (18.0%)
Pedro Martinez (16.2%)
Bob Cousy (12.5%)

So ... how do you think you did?

Note: The panel considered only players, coaches and executives who are retired or inactive.


• Photo gallery: Meet the Hall of Fame nominees Photo Gallery

• Chris Forsberg: About the Boston Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame panel


FEATURES, OPINIONS

• Howard Bryant: Transformative moments Video

• Mike Reiss: Saving a spot for Brady & Co. Video

• Bill Simmons Sr.: Larry Bird tribute Video

• Gordon Edes: Curious case of Clemens Video

• Jackie MacMullan: The Buckner moment Video

• Hot Button: Who's No. 1, Russell or Orr? Video

• Joe McDonald: O'Reilly was original dirt dog Video

• Chris Forsberg: Beyond the franchise players Video

• Media wing: They connect us with games Video


PANELISTS DEFEND THEIR TOP 5

• Jackie MacMullan: Red did it all Video

• Howard Bryant: Parcells laid foundation Video

• Mike Reiss: Boston Sports 101 Video

• Chris Forsberg: Yaz filled Ted's shoes Video

• Joe McDonald: Cousy a game changer Video


TEAM-BY-TEAM TOP 5s

• Red Sox: Greats from Cy to Pedro Video

• Patriots: Bledsoe, Bruschi make list Video

• Celtics: Plenty to choose from Video

• Bruins: Orr, Neely lead way Video

• Best of: High schools | Colleges

Top 10 teams of last 10 years | Rank 'em


VIDEOS

Which recent championship was greatest? Video

Worst moments in Boston sports Video

Potential media wing nominations Video

Narrowing the field down to 20 Video

Where is the love? Who got left out Video

Where are the championship Patriots? Video


A front-row seat to greatness

'Sports Dad' recalls how Larry Bird's arrival changed everything


By Bill Simmons Sr.
Special to ESPNBoston.com

Mike Reiss
ESPNBoston.com
Mike Reiss remembers Larry Bird's toughness and work ethic  Watch Video

Editor's note: Bill Simmons Sr. -- the "Sports Dad" -- has had Boston Celtics season tickets for 38 years and enjoyed a first-row seat through the amazing career of Larry Bird, one of the inaugural inductees in the ESPNBoston.com Hall of Fame. Alongside his son, Sports Guy Bill Simmons, Bill Sr. has witnessed the rise, fall and resurgence of the Celtics through the years, and maintains that Bird was the greatest thing that ever happened to the franchise. Here are his reflections on Bird:

In our first season as season-ticket holders, the Celtics won the championship. Two years later, in 1976, they won another championship, and my young son, Billy, and I were prepared for an exciting run of basketball history.

It didn't quite happen that way.

With contract disagreements, poor trades, questionable free-agent signings and retirements, we suddenly found ourselves rooting for losing Celtics teams. These teams of the late '70s, featuring players such as Curtis Rowe and Sydney Wicks, provided few wins, little excitement and questionable effort, and led to waning fan support. In fact, many who formed the fan base of the previous two decades gave up their season tickets, deciding that a return to basketball glory was not in Boston's future.

We decided to keep our seats. We would wait for a special player to change our basketball fortunes. We just never expected that Boston would be fortunate enough in 1978 to draft "the Basketball Jesus."

Bird
Associated Press
Larry Bird shoots a vintage jumper over a Houston Rockets defender during the 1986 NBA Finals.
Most fans are familiar with Red Auerbach's shrewd drafting of Larry Bird, and the great anticipation of his arrival in a Celtics uniform a year later. Boston suddenly went from one of the worst teams in the league to one of its most competitive and entertaining franchises.

In Larry's second season, 1980-81, he and his new teammates provided my favorite playoff memory as a Celtics season-ticket holder: the come-from-behind (down three games to one) series victory against the hated Philadelphia 76ers. If I close my eyes, I can still visualize Larry willing that team to four unbelievably close victories in that series, with the season culminating in a win in the Finals and another NBA championship.

My second favorite memory of Larry: his level of play during the 1985-86 championship season. He was at the peak of his career -- still relatively healthy, with a great group of teammates (McHale, Parish, DJ, Ainge, Walton) and enjoying a fun-filled regular season. The playoffs exemplified the talent level of that team, the fun they had playing together, the leadership that Larry provided, and the hope and expectation that many more championships were on the horizon.

Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.

Billy and I often talk about those Larry Bird moments, almost all of which we had the honor of witnessing in person: his dramatic playoff steal against Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons in 1987; his running return through the tunnel, next to our seats, after falling and hitting his chin against the Indiana Pacers in the 1991 playoffs; the scoring duel against Dominique Wilkins, in which it seemed that even the Atlanta Hawks' bench was in awe of Larry's performance; the 3-point shooting contest at All-Star Weekend, when Larry guaranteed victory; the 1984 playoffs, including Larry's assault on Bernard King, and his later annihilation of Kareem and the Lakers in a heat-filled Boston Garden; the sudden appearance of a dove (could have been a pigeon) during a 1991 playoff game against the Pistons that galvanized a struggling Bird to lead the Celtics to victory as the crowd adoringly chanted his name in support; and, the night before a game when Larry told the Pacers' Chuck Person that he had a Christmas present for him -- then, after making a 3-point shot in front of the Pacers' bench, slowly turning to Person to say "Merry f----ing Christmas."

As a longtime season-ticket holder, I obviously enjoy many, many wonderful memories of players and games, as well as the changing emotions of elation and despair. However, no period of Celtics history is more important to me than the 1979-1992 years when Larry Bird was a Boston Celtic. It was a time when Bill and I saw hundreds of games in which our all-time favorite player, Larry Bird, took us through parts of three decades. It was a time when my son and I bonded, sharing a love for a sport and an admiration for a player who definitely influenced Bill's later decision to spend his career as a sportswriter.

My son and I talk frequently about that time, and about the impact Larry Bird had on Boston, on the NBA, and on two season-ticket holders who had the privilege of witnessing greatness. I guess you could say Red Auerbach's signing of Bird in 1978 changed our lives.

Thanks, Red. And Larry, thanks for everything.