I understand the headline may seem delusional to some. And yet, with NBA Free Agency as exciting as it’s ever been, I must express my fandom for a future NBA superstar whose career has rode closely alongside one of the most iconic players of all time. The great “Larry Legend” of course.I’m also aware that many will think this comparison is made simply because we are about to have another 6′7 white dude starting at small forward in a Boston Celtics uniform. This simplistic observation may certainly get the ball rolling for a comparison. What is also equally intriguing is the path these men took with their games both on the court, and circumstantially.Lets start with college. Bird and Hayward’s early careers are both etched in stone with the all time greats, and the major reason is strikingly similar. They both took small to mid major programs to the National Championship Game, while coming up short in heroic fashion. For Larry, it was the David v. Goliath matchup between Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans and his Indiana State team. It was a series that ignited a personal rivalry between Bird and Magic, one now known as arguably the greatest two-player rivalry in the history of the game.For Gordon Hayward, it was Butler. A school that is now a member of the Big East conference solely because of Hayward’s career there. A National Championship game appearance against the high-powered Duke Blue Devils that was a spectacle to watch. And an unforgettable conclusion in a missed half court heave which would have given Butler their first National Championship in school history.
After both Bird and Hayward became lottery picks, you could make a case there was a bit of skepticism for how their games would translate into the NBA. Both could score the basketball in a number of ways, but it was how they scored in such an unorthodox manner that connects them. Scouts and fans were left wondering if they would be NBA stars, or simply college stars turned average NBA players. But that did not stop Bird from being selected 6th overall by the Green and White, and Hayward from closing in on a max deal to Bean Town.Now, as hinted earlier, there is the obvious factor of race that brings these two together. It doesn’t take a sociologist to see that Bird and Hayward are considered a small handful of white Americans to be crowned an NBA franchise player. Yet, it is the special connection shared between these two players, playing for the same team in the same position a generation apart, that makes die hard Boston fans feel nostalgic.Still, we would be lying to ourselves if we say race did not play a factor in this comparison. In the racially charged day and age we live in, comparing one person of a certain race or culture to another can be deemed ignorant, close-minded, blah blah blah. Especially when all these two people have in common on the surface is they can both put a ball through a hoop. To all political correctness, I GET IT!However, it’s the idea that Boston once again has a white guy from Indiana as their franchise player. On top of that, the man responsible for making this happen, GM Danny Ainge, was one of Bird’s closest teammates when they played together in Boston.Let’s look back at the name deemed to Larry Bird when he played, “The Great White Hope”. This was a nickname given to him by a predominately white city. It was also given because he was essentially “The Only White Hope”.I hate to use words regarding “White America”, but the NBA doesn’t have, and never will have, more then one “White Hope”. The only difference now is that hope is Gordon Hayward. A player that happens to be going to the same city and team where Larry once raised three championship banners. Playing for a franchise that only needs to get by one team to get to the Finals.It’s all in the cards for Gordon Hayward to bring back any kid of “Hope” to Boston Basketball. Whether he’s able to do it or not remains to be seen.
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