Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 17: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics reacts after a play during the second quarter of Game Five of the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden on June 17, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Boston athletes and video game covers go way back. Probably further back that you’re imagining.

Basically, they go back to the very beginning of video game history. The rise of home console systems converged with the emergence of Larry Bird as a superstar player for the Boston Celtics, making it a logical choice to plaster No. 33’s face on the newest game covers.

And it wasn’t just about putting Bird’s face on the box. Bird was the game. He and “Dr. J” Julius Erving, and later Michael Jordan, helped sell the earliest basketball video games to consumers in the early 1980s. More than 40 years later, Boston athletes have graced video game covers more than a dozen times. It’s a tough group to break into, but you could say Boston sports teams have had some success in recent years.

Here’s a look at the history of Boston athletes on video game covers, beginning with the one that started it all…

“One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird” (1983)

The Madden franchise typically gets the credit for Electronic Arts’ rise to prominence in sports gaming, but this simple little basketball game featuring two of the game’s biggest superstars was the real breakthrough. In fact, “One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird” was a breakthrough for sports video games as a whole.

Originally released in 1983 on the primitive Apple II computer, “Dr J vs. Larry Bird” was an immediate hit, and later got released on early video game consoles like Atari and ColecoVision. EA founder Trip Hawkins told Vice in a 2017 interview that the game gave him and his company the confidence to further develop sports-based games.

Fast-forward to 2024, and EA Sports remains a gaming behemoth. But, interestingly enough, they’ve ceded the top of the basketball mountain to 2K Sports. You’ll see more of them below.

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