Ranking the Top 25 Players in Boston Celtics History
Founded in 1946, the Boston Celtics have been the NBA's most successful franchise throughout their existence. They have won 17 NBA titles and have seen a number of great players don green jerseys over the past six decades.
From recent stars like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to top-10 all-time talents like Bill Russell and Larry Bird, Boston fans have been lucky enough to watch some of the game's best players pace the floor throughout the Celtics' history.
In compiling a ranking of the 25 best Celtics players ever, many factors were considered beyond just statistics. It is practically impossible to compare Pierce and Tom Sanders or Reggie Lewis by just looking at stat lines. Instead, this slideshow takes into account the era the player was active in, the success of their teams and their own individual accolades.
As the Celtics begin a new era of basketball, let's take some time to reflect on the 25 greatest players in the history of the franchise.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
25. Frank Ramsey
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Seven NBA titles
Considered by many to be the first true sixth man in basketball, Frank Ramsey was an instrumental player for the Celtics during the Russell era. Though his statistics by themselves are not staggering, Ramsey essentially served as a scoring combo guard who came off the bench for instant offense.
In his career as a Celtic, Ramsey averaged 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 39.9 percent from the field.
As with many Celtics you will see on this list, Ramsey was a player who elevated his game in the postseason. He averaged 23.2 points and 6.2 boards while shooting 49.5 percent as Boston took home the 1959 title.
24. Ed Macauley
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Six-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA first team
Ed Macauley is most known for being the player Boston traded to acquire Russell, but he had a very nice career with the Celtics, spending six years with the team.
Though he never won a championship with Boston, Macauley led the NBA in field-goal percentage twice and played heavy minutes regularly, including averaging 42.1 in the 1952-53 season.
Macauley’s case is hurt by the fact that he played primarily in the pre-Russell era, when the game was much slower and based far more on fundamentals than athleticism.
A quality post-up threat, Macauley used his 6’8” frame well and had the quickness to both run the floor with point guard Bob Cousy and exploit slower big men in the post.
His best season came in his first year with the Celts, when Macauley averaged 20.4 points, 9.1 boards and 3.7 assists while shooting 46.6 percent from the floor.
23. Tom Sanders
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Eight NBA titles, No. 16 retired by Celtics
Going purely by statistics, Tom Sanders was not an outstanding player for the Boston Celtics. In 13 seasons with the team, he averaged just 9.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists while shooting 42.8 percent from the field.
However, Sanders’ impact came largely on the defensive end, where he joined forces with Russell to form a bruising frontcourt tandem.
Sanders was capable of guarding the league’s top scoring big men despite being just 6’6”. He was incredibly physical and was able to keep players like Willis Reed and Jerry Lucas from scoring easily in the paint.
Though never a star, Sanders was an extremely valuable role player who was a key piece in the Celtics dynasty of the 1960s.
22. Don Nelson
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Five NBA titles, No. 19 retired by Celtics
Another valuable role player for the Celtics during the Bill Russell era, Don Nelson gets the nod over Tom Sanders because of his offensive production.
Nelson averaged 10.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, but he shot 48 percent from the field and led the league in field-goal percentage during the 1974-75 season.
He bounced around in the league before settling in Boston and emerging as a lethal sixth man like Ramsey did before him.
Nelson averaged 15.4 points in the 1969-70 season and 14 points in 1974-75, peaking after Russell’s retirement and giving the Celtics frontcourt some much-needed stability.
Though he was never a star and owes much of his success to players like Russell, Dave Cowens and John Havlicek, Nelson was a quality combo forward who could carry the Celtics’ offense for stretches off the pine.
21. Reggie Lewis
Career Accomplishments with Boston: One-time NBA All-Star, No. 35 retired by Celtics
In one of the great tragedies in sports, Reggie Lewis was just entering his prime when he died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a structural issue with his heart.
Lewis played six seasons with Boston and averaged 17.6 points, 4.3 boards and 2.6 assists while shooting 48.8 percent from the floor and looking like the player who would replace Bird as the Celtics’ franchise leader.
A phenomenal athlete who was a true two-way threat, Lewis was the prototypical wing at 6’7”. His jump shot was still developing, but he had the ability to attack in transition and score at will just by trying to get into the paint.
It is difficult to project just how good Lewis could have been had he not passed away. He was probably not destined to be an all-time great, but his death sent the Celtics franchise reeling and dragged out their rebuilding process by several years.
Along with the death of Len Bias, what happened to Lewis is easily one of the worst moments in American professional sports.
20. Danny Ainge
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Two NBA titles, one-time NBA All-Star
After dealing Pierce and Garnett, Danny Ainge may not currently be a favorite among the Boston faithful, but he had a very successful run as a player in green, logging seven full seasons as a Celtic before being traded to the Sacramento Kings midway through the 1988-89 campaign.
Ainge gets the nod here over players like Nelson and Sanders because he played in a far more competitive era of basketball where the overall talent level was higher.
Ainge gave Boston a scorer in the starting lineup who could provide more space for Kevin McHale and Bird, while also thriving in catch-and-shoot situations. Beyond just his shooting, Ainge was an underrated playmaker who could run the offense for stretches and always manage to set up his teammates.
For a perimeter scorer, Ainge was remarkably efficient in his career, having two years in Boston where he shot above 50 percent from the floor.
Ainge’s career numbers of 11.5 points, 2.7 boards and four assists are not stunning, but the fact that they came on 46.9 percent shooting overall and 37.8 percent from deep do make them more impressive.
The Celtics could have won titles without Ainge, but as a floor spacer and a backup ball-handler he did an outstanding job during the 1980s.
19. Cedric Maxwell
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Two NBA titles, one NBA Finals MVP, No. 31 retired by Celtics
In eight seasons with the Celtics, Cedric Maxwell emerged as a go-to scorer in the post who helped lead Boston to two championships alongside Bird.
With his low-post scoring prowess, Maxwell provided a nice compliment to Bird. Though he was not exactly Kevin McHale, Maxwell could back down opponents and use his strength and quickness to take advantage of them inside.
Maxwell also continually raised his game in the playoffs and came through in clutch moments, particularly the finals.
For his career, Maxwell averaged 12.5 points, 6.3 boards and 2.2 assists on 54.6 percent shooting and posted 16.1 points, 7.4 boards and 2.7 assists on 58 percent shooting in the playoffs when he won the 1981 NBA Finals MVP.
18. Bailey Howell
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Two NBA titles, two-time NBA All-Star, one-time All-NBA second team
A small forward who won two titles with the Celtics in his four seasons in green, Bailey Howell earns this spot because he carried the team’s offense and was staggeringly efficient while doing so.
He shot 48 percent for his career and 51.2 percent while averaging 20 points in the 1996-67 campaign, his best as a Celtic. For his career, Howell averaged 18.7 points, 9.9 boards and two assists.
Unlike many players of his era, Howell relentlessly attacked the basket and attempted to get shots in the paint, which led to his high percentages. He did not simply settle for jump shots and was able to convert from the charity stripe at a high clip.
Howell was never a superstar player, but he spent four quality seasons with the Celtics and the team may not have won the 1968 or 1969 titles without him scoring in bunches.
17. Ray Allen
Career Accomplishments with Boston: One NBA title, three-time NBA All-Star, set NBA record for most three-pointers made
Ray Allen’s list of career accomplishments with Boston seems slight, but the addition of Allen gave Boston a lethal second scoring option behind Pierce and a clutch shot-maker the team could always turn to in the fourth quarter.
His decision to leave Boston for the Miami Heat will certainly hurt his legacy, but he still accomplished enough in his five years as a Celtic to earn a spot among the franchise’s 25 greatest players.
With the Celtics, Allen was able to play more of his natural position as a 2-guard, running around screens to get open. His incredible stamina and quickness allowed him to wear down his defender, and his lightening-quick release meant that he needed just an inch of space to get off a shot.
For his career, Allen has averaged 19.4 points, 4.1 boards and 3.4 assists on 45.2 percent shooting overall and 40.1 percent from deep.
Though Allen did not transform the Celtics the way Garnett did when he arrived, his presence was essential in Boston’s two trips to the finals, as he gave the team a scorer capable of exploding for 20-plus points without stopping the team’s ball movement.
16. Bill Sharman
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Four NBA titles, eight-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA first team, No. 21 retired by Celtics
A lethal shooter for his era, Bill Sharman revolutionized the 2-guard position despite being just 6’1”. He led the league in free-throw percentage during seven of his 10 NBA seasons and was adept at drawing contact from defenders to get to the line.
An extremely efficient scorer compared to other players at his position, Sharman’s outside shot helped to open up the floor for Russell inside, and he made an ideal backcourt teammate for the pass-first Bob Cousy.
In his career, Sharman averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and three assists while shooting 42.6 percent for the field.
15. Nate Archibald
Career Accomplishments with Boston: One NBA title, three-time NBA All-Star, one-time All-NBA second team
Nate Archibald spent a mere five seasons in Boston, but he managed to win a ring in that period and cement himself as one of the game’s first great point guards.
Though he is most widely known for being the only player ever to lead the league in scoring and assists during the 1972-73 season, Archibald took on a smaller role with the Celtics, picking his spots better, pushing the ball in transition and looking to set up his teammates rather than score himself.
The lightening-quick Archibald still got his share of points thanks to his solid mid-range game and ability to knife his way into the lane, but he did not have to score 20-plus points every night with the Celts like he did as a Cincinnati Royal.
His relatively brief stay in Boston hurts his case, but Archibald is still one of the better point guards to ever pass through Boston Garden. For his career, he averaged 18.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 7.4 assists while shooting 46.7 percent from the field.
14. Rajon Rondo
Career Accomplishments with Boston: One NBA title, four-time NBA All-Star, one-time All-NBA third team, two-time assist champion
The keys to the Celtics are now firmly in Rajon Rondo’s hands, and we will now all finally get to see just what he is capable of on a team that needs him to be the best player on the court each night.
Rondo came to the Celtics in a draft-day trade from the Phoenix Suns in 2006 and instantly showed the potential to become an elite point guard.
He started during the C’s 2008 championship run, but he truly came into his own in 2009, when he averaged 16.9 points, 9.7 boards and 9.8 assists in the playoffs.
The 6’1” Rondo is among the game’s most unique talents. He offsets his lack of shooting with a sensational handle, tremendous passing instincts, and the ability to dominate the glass from the perimeter and defend multiple positions.
When he is engaged, Rondo is a nightly triple-double threat who is as capable of scoring 30-plus points as he is of dishing out 20-plus assists.
Time will tell whether the Celts choose to build around Rondo long term, but the point guard who has averaged 11.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists on 48.1 percent shooting certainly deserves an opportunity.
13. Kevin Garnett
Career Accomplishments with Boston: One NBA title, five-time NBA All-Star, one-time All-NBA first team, 2008 Defensive Player of the Year
Garnett’s six years with Boston pale in comparison to the tenures of players like Paul Pierce and Robert Parish, but his time in green breathed new life into the franchise and redefined Celtic pride for a new generation of fans.
His relentless intensity and phenomenal play on the defensive end helped Boston build a culture as a defensive-minded team, and his willingness to accept a smaller offensive role after being the Minnesota Timberwolves’ franchise player helped the Celtics to win a title in 2008.
An elite defender who can not only protect the rim but make his teammates better, Garnett provided the Celts with the leadership and mental edge they had been missing for years.
For his career, Garnett has averaged 19.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting 49.8 percent from the field.
Now a Brooklyn Net along with Pierce, Garnett will go down as a player who resurrected the Celts, even if his tenure with the team was cut unexpectedly short.
12. Tom Heinsohn
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Eight NBA titles, six-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA second team, 1957 Rookie of the Year, No. 15 retired by Celtics
A bruising power forward who was a territorial pick of the Celtics in 1956 out of Holy Cross, Tom Heinsohn’s hustle and deft shooting touch made him a perfect frontcourt partner for Bill Russell.
An agile big man who could score in a variety of ways, Heinsohn won the title in every year he played besides 1958, a truly incredible feat.
Though often overshadowed by Russell, Sam Jones and Bob Cousy, Heinsohn averaged 18.6 points, 8.8 boards and two assists per game. He shot just 40.5 percent from the floor, but few players then were efficient scorers.
Just in case he had not built up enough goodwill from his playing days, Heinsohn has since become one of the league’s most well-known and colorful commentators.
11. Dennis Johnson
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Two NBA titles, one-time NBA All-Star, No. 3 retired by Celtics
The 1979 NBA Finals MVP with the Seattle Supersonics, Dennis Johnson had played the best basketball of his career by the time he ended up with Boston in 1983. However, he proved to be indispensable during his seven-year stint, providing the Celts with airtight perimeter defense, veteran leadership and underrated playmaking.
Boston acquired Johnson to defend guards like Andrew Toney, but by adapting his game to be more of a facilitator than a scorer, Johnson was able to contribute on offense as well.
Still, he locked down opposing guards in the half court, was a nightmare pressuring the ball, and was able to come up with steals and create transition opportunities with his excellent hands and anticipation.
Johnson averaged 14.1 points, 3.9 boards and five assists in his career while connecting on 44.5 percent of his shots from the field.
10. Jo Jo White
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Two NBA titles, one NBA Finals MVP, seven-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA second team, No. 10 retired by Celtics
A versatile guard who helped Boston to two championships, Jo Jo White was dangerous both as a scorer and passer and could defend the perimeter as well.
White was also incredibly durable. In nine full seasons with the Celts, he appeared in less than 75 games just once.
White excelled while playing with John Havlicek and Dave Cowens in the 1970s, and he starred in one of the most memorable games in NBA history, Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, where he scored 33 points and dished out nine dimes in a triple-overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Finishing his career with the Kansas City Kings, White wound up averaging 17.2 points, four rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 44.4 percent from the field.
9. Sam Jones
Career Accomplishments with Boston: 10 NBA titles, five-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA second team, No. 24 retired by Celtics
The perfect second fiddle to Bill Russell, Sam Jones was responsible for much of the scoring duty during his time in Boston and was also a consistent clutch performer in the playoffs.
Thanks to his lethal mid-range jumper and ability to shoot off the glass, Jones was able to spread the floor for the Celtics and provide their bigs with more room down low. He was also capable of attacking in transition and even crashing the glass from the perimeter.
Jones shuffled between point guard, shooting guard and small forward as needed, proving himself to be an invaluable piece in Red Auerbach’s offense.
In 12 seasons as a Celtic, Jones averaged 17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 45.6 percent overall.
Though he did not revolutionize the game like Russell, Jones was a player who consistently elevated his game in the playoffs and made the big shot when he was called upon to do so.
8. Robert Parish
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Four NBA titles, nine-time NBA All-Star, one-time All-NBA second team, No. 00 retired by Celtics
Never a superstar player but always a consistent one, Robert Parish played an incredible 21 seasons in the NBA, 14 of which were with the Celtics, who acquired him from the Golden State Warriors in 1980.
A reliable mid-range jump-shooter and a quality defensive big man, Parish was the perfect piece to slot in alongside Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, since he did not need to have plays run for him but could still find a way to impact the game.
In his career, Parish averaged 14.5 points, 9.1 boards and 1.4 assists while shooting 53.7 percent from the field.
At his peak with the Celtics, he was a nightly 20-10 threat, but he never forced the issue or played outside of his strengths. Parish was as willing to score from the perimeter as he was to mix it up down low when Boston needed him to.
A mobile big man who ran the floor extremely well, Parish was an instrumental part of the Celtics’ uptempo attack that wore down opposing defenses. He could consistently beat his man down the court for open shots and also worked hard on the offensive glass.
If that isn’t enough for you, Parish also took down Boston nemesis Bill Laimbeer in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.
7. Bob Cousy
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Six NBA titles, one MVP, 13-time NBA All-Star, 10-time All-NBA first team, No. 14 retired by Celtics
Bob Cousy took a circuitous route to the NBA, eschewing the Tri-Cities Blackhawks to start his own driving school after being drafted in 1950. However, once he finally joined the Celtics, Cousy became a star overnight thanks to his unselfishness and his flashy game.
In essence, Cousy was Steve Nash long before there was a Steve Nash. He had a phenomenal handle, ran the fast break to perfection and was able to hit teammates with pinpoint passes to put them in easy scoring position.
Thanks to Cousy, the point guard position became just as essential to a team’s success as the center spot. Though he was a shaky shooter, Cousy was able to draw contact and get to the foul line better than most guards of his era.
For his career, Cousy averaged 18.4 points, 5.2 boards and 7.6 assists despite shooting just 37.5 percent from the floor.
The poor shooting percentage is more a product of the time period than Cousy’s abilities. He played back when teams sprinted up the court and took the first available shot, so few players besides big men shot efficiently from the field.
The tandem of Cousy and Bill Russell was impossible to stop, as Russell would ignite the team’s offense with outlet passes and Cousy would find a way to either finish or make the proper pass.
6. Paul Pierce
Career Accomplishments with Boston: One NBA title, one NBA Finals MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, one-time All-NBA second team
One of the craftiest scorers in league history, Pierce spent 15 seasons with the Celts before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets, and in that time he saw the franchise go from being a laughingstock to a championship contender.
Pierce fell to Boston in the 1998 draft and instantly proved himself as a star player in this league. Armed with a deadly jump shot and a bevy of moves off the dribble, Pierce is capable of scoring 20-plus any given night even though he lacks elite quickness.
The man known as “The Truth” is more than just a scorer, though. He played the point forward role for many years and also emerged as a quality defender later in his career, something that rarely happens in the NBA.
In the mid-2000s, as Boston struggled to break out of the middle of the Eastern Conference, Pierce carried the team every night, guarding the opposing team’s best wing player and using his mix of post-ups, herky-jerky drives and spot-up shooting to rack up points.
Overall, Pierce averaged 21.8 points, six rebounds and 3.9 assists as a Celtic while shooting 44.7 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range.
Even as he aged, Pierce managed to adapt his game and stay relevant, making the All-Star team every year from 2008-2012.
Now a Brooklyn Net, Pierce will have one last shot at the second championship Boston could not give him, but not being able to retire a Celtic is something that will haunt fans for years to come.
5. Dave Cowens
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Two NBA titles, one MVP, seven-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA second team, 1971 Rookie of the Year, No. 18 retired by Celtics
Not the most skilled player, Dave Cowens led Boston to two championships thanks to his sheer energy, heart and effort. Cowens was a player who truly left everything out on the court, and his competitive fire was the enduring characteristic of his decade in green.
A game-changing defender, Cowens was able to effectively guard centers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar despite being just 6’9” because of his strength and physicality down low. He moved extremely well on the court, had great hands for blocking shots and coming up with steals, and could even guard out on the perimeter for stretches thanks to his athleticism.
When all else failed, he was more than happy to dole out a hard foul to prevent an easy score.
Offensively, Cowens had a reliable jump shot, could throw pinpoint passes for a big man and was capable of cleaning up in the paint. For his career, he averaged 17.6 points, 13.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 46 percent shooting while playing all but 40 games with Boston.
Like Bill Russell, he was not the most skilled player of his era, but he was easily one of the most competitive, and his success alongside John Havlicek is a testament to the capability of a team that simply wants to win more than their opponent.
4. Kevin McHale
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Three NBA titles, seven-time NBA All-Star, one-time All-NBA first team, two-time Sixth Man of the Year, No. 32 retired by Celtics
A tremendous scorer with perhaps the best post game in NBA history, Kevin McHale shined playing alongside Larry Bird and helped Boston dominate the 1980s. McHale redefined the power forward position, using his 6’10” frame and phenomenal footwork to abuse defenders on the block.
McHale referred to those guarding him in the post as being in the “torture chamber,” and there really is not a more succinct description. With his phenomenal hands and ability to finish through contact, McHale simply could not be contained down low.
He also excelled defensively, anchoring Boston in the paint and proving to be one of the game’s premier shot-blockers. He averaged a career-high 2.8 rejections in the 1985-86 season and was also an effective help defender.
Beyond just his statistics, McHale was truly a team-first player who cared more about winning than anything else. He was able to thrive both in the starting five and off the bench, never letting his ego get in the way of his talent.
McHale also played through a potentially career-ending broken navicular bone in his right foot during the 1987 playoffs, slogging through 39.4 minutes per game in 21 postseason contests while averaging 21.1 points.
If those accomplishments are not enough to land McHale in the top five, he also gift-wrapped Kevin Garnett to Boston when he was general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007.
3. John Havlicek
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Eight NBA titles, one NBA Finals MVP, 13-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA first team, No. 17 retired by Celtics
John Havlicek’s name may not hold the same weight nowadays as Larry Bird’s or Bill Russell’s, but "Hondo" goes down in history as one of the most successful and durable Celtics players in history.
Havlicek spent 16 seasons in the NBA from 1962-1978, an incredible number given the poor travel conditions, rigorous schedule and lack of medical technology present during that era. In his entire career, Havlicek missed more than seven games in a season just once and played through a separated shoulder in the 1973 postseason.
A two-sport athlete who was also drafted by the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, Havlicek excelled early in his career as a sixth man, but took on a greater role in the 1970s once Russell and Sam Jones retired. He led the league in minutes in 1971 and 1972, forming a formidable tandem with Dave Cowens.
A good shooter and a lockdown defender, Hondo was capable of handling the ball and playing off the ball on the wing too. He was also a phenomenal athlete who thrived on the fast break and was willing to throw his body around with reckless abandon.
For his career, Havlicek averaged 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists while shooting 43.9 percent from the field.
He also gave us one of the NBA’s enduring phrases in the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals, making “Havlicek stole the ball!” one of the league’s immortal phrases.
2. Larry Bird
Career Accomplishments with Boston: Three NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, three MVPs, 12-time NBA All-Star, nine-time All-NBA first team, 1980 Rookie of the Year, No. 33 retired by Celtics
Things were looking bleak for Boston in the late 1970s before the arrival of Larry Bird, who instantly returned the franchise to its status as a perennial contender. Bird was far from the best athlete, but he saw the floor like few players in NBA history have, and what he lacked in pure athleticism he made up for in sheer creativity.
Bird was a true five-tool player, someone capable of scoring at will, rebounding his position, playing point forward and even locking down his man in his younger days.
For his career, Bird averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists while shooting 49.6 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.
In his prime, Bird was as tough to cover offensively as any player in league history. He had limitless range, could back down smaller defenders and was such a deft passer that often his teammate would have the ball before the defense even realized it left Bird's hands.
Back injuries slowed him down during the later years of his career, but Bird was still able to bring Boston three more banners while his rivalry with Magic Johnson defined the NBA for a new generation of basketball fans.
Even as his physical abilities diminished, Bird was still dominant as a facilitator and an outside shooter, running the Celtics offense and bombing away from three-point range.
And, if you believe Paul George, he hasn’t lost much, even at 56 years old.
1. Bill Russell
Career Accomplishments with Boston: 11 NBA titles, five MVPs, 12-time NBA All-Star, five-time rebounding champion, No. 6 retired by Celtics.
One of the greatest winners in all of professional sports, Bill Russell came to the Celtics in 1956 and immediately made as big an impact on the game of basketball as any player has. With his phenomenal athleticism, Russell helped to transform basketball from a horizontal game into a vertical one.
What ultimately sets Russell apart from Larry Bird as the greatest Celtic ever is that though Bird made basketball a much more popular game, Russell truly transformed the way the sport is played.
Though his 6’9” stature would seem unimpressive now, Russell towered over players in his era and used his superb length and instincts to dominate on the defensive end of the floor.
Never much of a scorer, Russell made his bones as a rebounder, a shot-blocker and an underrated passer. He was a decent post-up threat, but he made up for his lack of a jumper with his ability to run the floor and get easy buckets. For his career he averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists, with the great tragedy being that blocks were not kept track of back then.
Beyond just his numbers, Russell was as fearsome a competitor as they come. He had an 11-0 record in Game 7s, and the only years he did not win a championship were 1958 and 1967. He frequently played his best ball under the brightest lights, posting a 30-point, 40-rebound performance in Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals. That’s 40, with a four.
To put it simply, there is a reason that the NBA Finals MVP trophy is named after Russell.
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