No. 2: Boston Celtics select Larry Bird in 1978, elevating team into different stratosphere
There could be an argument that Auerbach’s deal for McHale and Parish should be No. 2, but Larry Bird’s career accolades do not lie. Boston’s No. 33 was drafted No. 6 overall by the Cs in 1978, one of only two Hall of Famers from that class including former Philadelphia 76er Maurice Cheeks. It took a year for him to join the northeast side as he was causally busy leading his college ball club to the NCAA national title game. Paul Pierce was a revolutionary Celtic, but once Bird signed the biggest contract for a rookie sports history, the Cs became instant contenders.
The five players taken in front of the Indiana State University product combined for just four All-Star appearances. Each of those belongs to Micheal Ray Richardson. Auerbach’s team went from 29 wins to 61 in one season. Bird led his side along with Cedric Maxwell to the Conference Finals in his first campaign as the league’s top rookie. In eight out of the next nine seasons, Bird was the catalyst to Boston’s finishing as the East’s No. 1 overall seed. His three MVPs speak for themselves, but what made No. 33 so special with his distribution and unselfishness.
June 9, 1978 in New York City was a special day in one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. Bird was an icon who brought the NBA into relevance. He did it all in Boston, and that day was the beginning of it all.