Being the most storied franchise in the NBA's history, the Boston Celtics have had many great players. In fact, 22 Celtics players are currently in the Hall of Fame for their professional basketball careers, and at least three current Boston Celtics will likely be inducted following the end of their careers.
With such a wonderful, storied cast of players, it's going to be tough to whittle it down to an all-time starting five, but here goes my best shot...
This is the easiest position to choose. Bill Russell is the ultimate winner in the history of American team sports. If he were to wear all his rings, he'd have to wear two on one finger. That's right; In his 13 seasons, he won 11 championships. ELEVEN! Even today, some basketball fans still consider Russell the greatest player in the history of the game.
While he was very good statistically (15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game for his career, not to mention who-knows-how-many-blocks [they didn't keep blocks as a statistic back then]), Russell is regarded as such a great player for the effect he had on his teams.
Whenever Russell was on the court, he made his teammates better through his terrific defense and unselfish play.
A winner in every sense of the word, Russell will probably forever hold the record for most titles as an individual. He also won five MVP's, and was named to the All-Star team every year but his first (which was cut in half because he played on the Olympic team).
Honorable Mention: Robert "The Chief" Parish
Not-So-Honorable Mention: Pervis Ellison, Brett Szabo
This may just be the most difficult position to decide. One one hand, there's Dave Cowens [even though he also played center, I took the liberty of making him a power forward for this discussion for two reasons - 1) He was 6'9", and 2) He was too good to be classified as a center behind Russell].
Now, I wasn't around to see Cowens play, but by all accounts the man was a warrior in the paint. He had KG's tenacity and was known as being a bulldog on the glass and around the basket.
He was the 1970-1971 Rookie of the Year, the 1973 MVP, and made seven consecutive all-star games. For his career, Cowens averaged 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game, winning two NBA championships.
On the other hand, there's Kevin McHale. McHale was one of the greatest power forwards in the history of the game. Known as having the best post footwork in NBA history, McHale is considered by Charles Barkley to be the toughest player Barkley ever had to play against.
Not only was McHale a great scorer, he was one of the best defenders of his era. He possessed incredible versatility, with the ability to guard much smaller players due to his quick feet and amazing wingspan. McHale also made seven all-star games, and was a part of three championship teams.
To me, the deciding factor in the best power forward has to be that Cowens was indisputably the best player on an NBA Championship team (1976), and arguably the best player on the 1974 champions, too. While McHale won one more championship than Cowens, he was second fiddle on all those teams, to Larry Bird.
Honorable Mention: Mchale, Kevin Garnett
Dishonorable Mention: Marty Conlon
Another easy category. Larry Bird is, simply put, one of the greatest players of all time. He is, along with Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, one of only three players to win three MVP's in a row, and averaged 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists during his illustrious career.
Known as "Larry Legend", Bird is given credit, along with Magic Johnson, for reviving the NBA from bad times.
The man had outstanding outside touch, incredible court vision, and a knack for hitting enormous shots. On top of all that, he had a work ethic and unselfishness that lifted his teammate's abilities.
Bird was the best player on three championship teams, in 1981, 1984, and 1986. He was cocky because he knew what he was capable of, and knew that, when he and his team needed it, he would almost always deliver.
Apologies have to go out to Paul Pierce and John "Hondo" Havlicek, two of the most durable stars and top scorers in Celtics' history. Pierce and Havlicek will always be Celtics legends, they just had the really bad luck of being stuck behind Larry Bird at the small forward position.
I thought about moving one of them to shooting guard, but that position is manned by one of the most underrated players in the history of the NBA.
Honorable Mention: Pierce, Havlicek
Dishonorable Mention: Jiri Welsch
If you had to name five players from the early Boston Celtics' dynasty, you still probably wouldn't name Sam Jones. Even though he won ten championships and was one of the Celtics' greatest scorers of that time, it took until 1984 for him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I don't know why, but history has written Sam Jones out of the Celtics history.
Let's just go through the stats - Jones won 10 NBA championships in his 12-season career.
He led the Celtics in scoring five times. Playing for Celtics teams known for their great offensive balance (those teams routinely had at least five players average in double figures, and had up to seven—that's right, seven—players average at least 10 points per game), Jones still averaged 17.7 points for his career, including four seasons of at least 21 ppg and one season at 25.9 ppg.
He is one of the greatest scorers the Boston Celtics have ever had and one of the greatest winners in NBA history, but history has almost forgotten Sam Jones. I'm not going to make that same mistake.
Honorable Mention: Bill Sharman, Frank Ramsey
Dishonorable Mention: Ron Mercer (what a bust)
At point guard, there can be no other choice than Bob Cousy. I wasn't around to see Cousy, either, but he was a pioneer for the sport, and way ahead of his time. For his career, Cousy averaged 18.4 points, 7.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. He was the 1957 MVP, and made 13 all-star games.
He won six championships and was considered the best point guard of his era. He is a very easy choice for a Celtics franchise that, despite all of its great success, hasn't had terrific point guard play.
Honorable Mention: Jo-Jo White, Dennis Johnson, Future Rajon Rondo
Dishonorable Mention: Tyus Edney (although I didn't want to do it because I loved him in college)
Well, there it is. One fans' perspective on who would be the starting five on the all-time Celtics team. Feel free to comment on who you would start if you had the chance.
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