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Bird-as-most-lovable-Celtic overwhelming favorite over Russell. Why?


The results of my Twitter poll are in on the most beloved Celtic, all-time. Larry Bird ran away with the vote, taking 81.4% of the ballots. Bill Russell came in a distant-second with 10.2% of the vote. Paul Pierce grabbed 6.8%, and John Havlicek finished with 1.7%.

So, why the distance between Larry and Russ? Was it racism? Possibly. That can't be totally excluded. Was it the fact that Big Bill played mostly in the 60's when fewer fans went to games or watched them on TV.? 

I believe that most Celtics fans in-the-know would put Bird and Russell at the top of their Best-Celtic-All-Time list, so why the discrepancy in the vote? 

Although I never personally met Bill, he lived near me in Reading, Massachusetts in the 60's, and without going into detail, some members of the community treated him badly. You have read the stories. Assorted members of the media were no better, sending unwarranted criticism his way. If Russ wasn't particularly affable, he had his reasons.

My personal take is that Russell had a tough facade because he was never loved and appreciated when he led the Celtics to 11 Titles. Was racism involved here. Some - I believe. Just as Bird alleged Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe sarcasticlly regarded him in his rookie year as "The Great White Hope", it is probable that some Celtics-fans-of-light-complexion favor players of that same color (per CelticsBlog's Professor Parquet):

When Bird reported to camp as a rookie, he immediately had to deal with "great white hope" fallout issues from without and within, mainly teammates Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe. The two fading veteran yet established black forwards were skeptical of the pale, slender white forward's game.

Wicks and Rowe even made comments to the effect of "here comes the great white hope" the first day of practice when Bird came onto the court. The former UCLA bookend forwards were near the end of their careers and had become underachieving malcontents.

As Bird succinctly (tellingly) noted in the NBA TV documentary "Bird and Magic: A Courtship of Rivals", Wicks and Rowe did not make it past the first day of practice under ex-Marine drill sergeant coach Bill Fitch, who cut them after their antics.

Celtic forward Cedric Maxwell also admitted that at the time, a lot of black players were biased against caucasian players, openly skeptical that they could play well against top competition since there was a dearth of white stars in the league.
So what are my readers' thoughts? Racism? Russ played too long ago? Bill simply was not lovable? Too small a sample (59 votes)? Let us know.

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