Larry Bird squares off against Joan Benoit in the first round of Boston’s Biggest Sports Legend tournament.
2. Larry BirdIt’s difficult to put into words what Larry Bird did for basketball in the city of Boston. Bird was so impressive at Indiana State that Red Auerbach drafted him in 1978, knowing full well that the Celtics would have to wait another season to see Bird in green. The wait was well worth it, with Bird beating out collegiate rival Magic Johnson for Rookie of the Year honors following the 1979-80 season. That was just the beginning for Bird, who helped lead the Celtics to championships in 1981, 1984 and 1986. Bird spent most of his career collecting accolades, including three MVPs, 12 All-Star selections, a gold medal and three memorable 3-point contest victories. Bird’s 29.9 points per game is the highest mark in franchise history, while Larry Legend’s clutch shots throughout the ’80s will never be forgotten.
15. Joan BenoitIn the 1980s, Joan Benoit was the face of women’s running. And above that face was a proudly worn Red Sox cap. Before graduating from Bowdoin College, the Cape Elizabeth, Maine, native set an American and course record in the 1979 Boston Marathon – and did so rocking a Red Sox hat. She outdid herself with a world record-setting 1983 victory at the annual Patriots’ Day trot from Hopkinton to Copley Square in downtown Boston. As if a pair of crowns at the world’s most recognizable road race in her backyard of Boston, Mass. weren’t enough, Benoit captured gold in the first women’s marathon at the Los Angeles Olympics at the age of 27 in 1984. In 1985, she captured the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States and won the Chicago Marathon with an American record time of 2:21:21. You do the math: two Boston Marathon wins, a gold medal, a Chicago Marathon win, a world record and an American record in the span of seven years. Not bad for a Maine-iacal runner with a love for the Sox.
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