The 2021 HOF Class Will be Loaded with Celtics Legends
Less than 24 hours after Kevin Garnett slipped on his Naismith Orange Hall-of-Fame blazer, the Boston Celtics learned that they would soon have three more Legends headed to Springfield to join him.
The NBA announced Sunday that Paul Pierce, Bill Russell and Mike Gorman would all be a part of the 2021 Hall-of-Fame enshrinement ceremony, with Pierce being inducted to the players’ wing, Russell being inducted to the coaches’ wing (after already entering as a player in 1975), and Gorman being honored by as this year’s Curt Gowdy Media Award recipient.
Pierce will headline the 16 inductees this coming September, representing the Celtics as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and one of the most decorated and beloved players in franchise history.
During his 15 seasons in Boston, Pierce earned 10 All-Star bids, four All-NBA selections, and a Finals MVP after leading the Celtics to their 17th championship in 2008. The Truth also ranks among the franchise’s top 10 in virtually every statistical category, as he is second in points scored, seventh in rebounds, fifth in assists, first in steals, fourth in blocks, first in 3-point field goals, and third in minutes played.
On top of all of those statistics and accolades, Pierce was one of the most driven, passionate and loyal players in Celtics history, making him without question the greatest Celtic of this past generation.
Pierce certainly knew that the day of his enshrinement would come, but he never could have dreamed that he’d be inducted alongside one of the Celtics Legends who helped to pave the way long before him in Russell.
Nearly 50 years after being inducted as a player in 1975, Russell will finally be honored as a coach, as well.
Russell didn’t have a particularly long tenure as an NBA head coach (eight years in total), but his arrival into the role was historically impactful and unique in ways that we may never see again.
In 1966, Russell became the first Black head coach in NBA history, marking a monumental, barrier-breaking moment in league history.
However, there was another layer on top of that. Red Auerbach didn’t just hire Russell to replace him on the sideline; he hired the perennial champion to coach straight from the court.
The first three years of Russell’s coaching experience overlapped with the tail end of his playing career, which was capped off with back-to-back championships in 1968 and 1969. Holding such responsibility as both the head coach and the franchise cornerstone player is unheard of in the modern-day NBA, and it’s an achievement that current C’s coach Brad Stevens can hardly believe.
“We all can’t say enough great things about Bill Russell and the impact he had on and off the court all over the country, but certainly he left an incredible legacy for us to follow here in Boston with the Celtics,” Stevens said Sunday afternoon following a 96-92 loss to the New York Knicks in the regular-season finale. “I can’t imagine going from player to a player head coaching role, but he’s just such a unique guy. When he was playing, he had everybody’s utmost respect because he played for one reason: He played to win. Nothing else mattered. He defended at a high level, he made his teammates better. Every single one of them adores him, then and now. And so for him then to take a role where he’s figuring out the lineups and he’s one of the guys in it, that would be really hard to do. But special is only reserved for a few, and Bill Russell is as special as they come.”
To be inducted as both a player and as a coach is also quite special, as only four other individuals have held such an honor: Lenny Wilkens, John Wooden, and Russell’s former teammates in Bill Sharman and Tommy Heinsohn.
Along with Russell, the late Heinsohn will have another one of his longtime friends honored by the Hall of Fame in September as former broadcast partner Mike Gorman will receive the Curt Gowdy media award, which “singles out members of the electronic and print media for outstanding contributions to basketball.”
Gorman is currently in his 40th season as Boston’s play-by-play television commentator and is a five-time Emmy award winner. During Sunday’s broadcast on NBC Sports Boston, the Dorchester native was in awe that he’d be joining two of the city’s most accomplished sports figures on their upcoming journey to Springfield.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled at the idea that Paul Pierce is going in too,” Gorman reflected. “I mean Paul has always been my favorite guy, and to have Bill Russell also be honored. To part of that Celtic group, that’s a big deal.”
It will be a big deal for the Celtics organization as a whole. After all, it’s not often that you get to see one of your own Legends step into the Hoop Hall, let alone three at once.