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I think we need a break, even for half-a-day. Between the New England Patriot's loss in the Super Bowl yesterday to the anxiety of waiting to see what the Celtics will do as we approach the trade deadline, hopefully this will serve as a brief diversion.

Boston Globe columnist, Bob Ryan, has always been one of my favorite sports writers, and what follows are his rankings for the greatest-of-all-time Boston professional athletes. All of the blockquotes are Bob's:

10. Carl Yastrzemski

Yaz was the ultimate grinder, a man who was taking extra batting practice in the final week of his 23-year career so he could exit saying they still could not throw a fastball by him.

9. David Ortiz

Big Papi was a walking legend, and that legend was forged in the postseason, above all. Nobody — nobody — goes 11 for 16 with eight walks for an OPS of 1.948 in a World Series. Big Papi did. The Red Sox won three titles in his time, and you’d better believe he had something to do with it.

When talking about Big Papi, we should remember he was part of the reason Celtics center, Al Horford, signed with Boston as a free agent.


8. Ray Bourque

Bourque was the epitome of professionalism and consistency. He was a Bruins first-year player at age 19, but he was never a “rookie.” On just about any other team he’d have been the greatest defenseman in its history (five Norris Trophies), but this is Boston, and there was another guy.

7. Bob Cousy

Another example of our embarrassment of athletic riches. Seventh? In 20th-century America, only one man was officially nicknamed “Mr. Basketball, and that was Bob Cousy. The standard by which all subsequent point guards have been measured.

6. John Havicek

Forty years after his last game, he remains the best guard-forward combo ever. And that means the best two-way guard-forward combo ever.

It is easy to forget just how great Hondo was. He just quietly did everything asked of him, and he did it with dignity. A fabulous athlete. He and I picked up the nickname, Hondo, from the cowboy character, Hondo Lane, played by John Wayne in the movie. The late broadcaster, Johnny Most, preferred the nickname, Jarrin' John.

5. Larry Bird

LeBron’s a damn good passer, but he ain’t Larry. They are the two greatest forwards ever. No Celtics great has ever connected better with the fans. It kills me to rank him this low, but, hey, this is Boston.

4. Ted Williams

What? I can hear the old-timers now. Fourth? Only in Boston, folks, only in Boston. The three ahead of him have combined for 18 titles. It does matter.

3. Bobby Orr

Gretzky me no Gretzky, Bobby Orr was the greatest hockey player ever. With today’s medical science, he’d have had a longer career and more Cups.

It is ironic that Bird and Orr are close in the rankings. There is another close connection. Bird would stare at the Boston Garden rafters during the National Anthem, and fans wondered why.


2. Tom Brady

And no apparent end in sight.

1. Bill Russell

Pure and simple, the greatest documented winner in all of North American sport. Two NCAA titles, Olympic gold, and 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons. In 21 winner-take all-games (all NCAA affairs, Olympic medal round, NBA best-of-fives and best-of-sevens), he was 21-0. No accident. This is an easy call. Bill Russell is the best Boston has ever known.

OK, New York, LA, Chicago, Philly, Pocatello, wherever. That’s our best bunch. Who’ve you got?

Red Auerbach made some great decisions and moves in his tenure with the Boston Celtics. None of them were as great as maneuvering to acquire Bill Russell. Russ was a leader and a winner. And the Russell/Auerbach union was was one of the most perfect coach/player pairings we will ever witness.

Those are Bob Ryan's rankings. What do our readers think?

Follow Tom at @TomLandHC

Russell/Auerbach photo via AP
Big Papi photo via Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Tom Lane 2/05/2018 08:03:00 AM Edit
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