Top Five Defining Moments In Boston Celtics Draft History
Dynasties are built through the draft. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, football or hockey, finding that special franchise player can put a team on the map for years to come. The New England Patriots built a dynasty through great drafting finding the likes of Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour. The Yankees of the late 90s combined the draft with smart trades to build a dynasty.
Today, we look at the defining moments that forged the Boston Celtics mystique and demise through the NBA draft.
5. 1962: It’s Just Not Fair: Celtics Draft John Havlicek with the Last Pick in the Draft
Here is how the 1962 NBA Draft went down:
1. Chicago – Bill McGill
2. New York - Paul Hogue
3. St. Louis – Zelmo Beaty
4. Syracuse - Len Chappell
5. Philadelphia – Wayne Hightower
6. Los Angeles – Leroy Ellis
7. BOSTON – JOHN HAVLICEK
The Boston Celtics were in the midst of creating their dynasty and winning four straight championships. It just wasn’t fair that they would be adding a future Hall of Famer to their team.
With the seventh pick in the 1962 draft, Boston selected John Havlicek, out of Ohio St. Havlicek was fresh from taking the Buckeyes to the NCAA Championship.
‘Hondo’ made an immediate impact on the team. He became one of the first NBA players to become a ‘super-sub’ or the original Sixth Man. Havlicek was classified by Bob Cousy as a non-shooter and if Havlicek didn’t shoot more often he’d be out of the league.
John proved everyone wrong. Havlicek averaged between 18-21 points per game in the 1960’s. He loved coming off the bench. To him, it mattered more if he was on the floor at the end of a game than starting a game.
Once Bill Russell, Cousy and K.C. Jones retired, the Celts became Hondo’s team. From 1969-1975, he would average more than 24 points per game and be the leading force on offense.
Havlicek played a large part in two games in Celtics lore. In the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals, he stole the inbound pass from Hal Greer to seal the win 110-109. “Havlicek steals the ball!”
The second was the 1976 Finals against the Phoenix Suns. Havlicek hit a bank shot to go up one. After a technical free throw made by the Celts, Garfield Heard hit a half court shot to tie the game and take it into a third overtime. The Celts would go on to win in triple overtime in what was called ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played.'
Havlicek spent 16 years with the Celtics. He was a 13-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA, and a five time All-Defensive team player.
Most importantly, he won eight NBA titles with the Celtics.
The six players drafted before Hondo? They combined for 4 All-Star appearances and one NBA title.
4. 1980: Who Barely Cares About the #1 Pick?: Celtics Make Draft Day Trade Dealing off the #1 Overall Pick To Golden St. For Robert Parish and the #3 Pick
The Celtics were looking to get faster on the break out and did not see that the overall No. 1 selection in the 1980 draft would provide that help.
The consensus number one pick was Purdue center, Joe Barry Carroll.
Red Auerbach went dealing. He sent the No. 1 and No. 13 pick to Golden State for the No. 3 and Robert Parish.
The No. 3 turned out to be Kevin McHale. And so formed the "Big Three" of Larry Bird, McHale and Robert Parish.
With the Celtics, Parish was a nine-time All-Star.
McHale was a seven-time All-Star, a two-time Sixth Man award winner, a three-time All-Defensive player and a Hall of Famer.
More importantly, McHale and Parish, with Bird, won three NBA titles.
'Joe Barely Cares,' as he was nicknamed in Golden State, was an All-Star once.
The 13th pick was Ricky Brown from Mississippi St. Who? He played five seasons in the NBA and finished his career overseas.
Greatest Deal in NBA history? Close...
3. 1986: Len Bias and the Demise of the Boston Celtics
With the acquisition of Dennis Johnson, Celtics' General Manager Jan Volk, felt he had a chip to trade in Gerald Henderson.
Dennis Johnson had taken over as point guard.
Knowing he did not need help right away in 1984, Volk traded Henderson to Seattle for their first round pick in 1986.
Seattle absolutely crumbled during the 1985-86 season. The Celtics won the NBA title that same year and ended up with the second pick in the 1986 draft.
Red Auerbach had coveted six-foot-eight power forward Len Bias. Bias, from the University of Maryland, was pinned by Auerbach to be Larry Bird’s successor.
The Celts could use Bias as the a sixth man and be able to save the bodies of McHale and Bird, who had been suffering from injuries in recent years.
Bias was supposed to be the next big thing in the NBA and he was going to the defending champion Boston Celtics.
This was a coup for Auerbach and Volk, especially with Cleveland expected to take North Carolina center Brad Daugherty.
The Celts took Bias with the second pick. The next day, he flew to Boston and reportedly signed a $3 million deal with Adidas.
48 hours after the draft, Bias was dead of a cocaine overdose. Bias suffered cardiac arrhythmia from the ingestion of cocaine.
Boston went into a slide. Larry Bird had back and foot problems that ended his career after the 1992 season and Kevin McHale suffered foot issues that sidelined him as well.
The Celtics aged quickly and for 22 years, Boston never won a title.
Only twice did they make an Eastern Conference Finals (1987, 2002)
It was the curse of Len Bias
2. 1978: Boston Drafts and Waits for ‘The Hick from French Lick’
The 1977-78 Boston Celtics were coming off a 32-50 season and owned the sixth and eighth pick of the 1978 draft. Red Auerbach had a fascination with a shooting forward from Indiana State named Larry Bird.
Back in those days, the NBA had the ‘junior eligibility’ rule. A basketball club could draft a player who was a junior, with the collegiate player still having the option to go back for his senior year. Yet, he would be the property of that team until the following draft.
In 1978, Auerbach played that game. He drafted Bird sixth overall but Bird decided to go back for his senior season. His reasoning was to prove to his critics that he could lead his Indiana St. Sycamores to the NCAA tournament.
Bird led Indiana St to a 33-0 record before losing to Magic Johnson and the Michigan St. Spartans in the NCAA Championship game.
But, Red Auerbach knew he had something special in Larry Bird. So special that he allowed the 1978-79 Celtics to completely flop. That team finished 29-53 which at the time was the worst record in franchise history.
Was the wait worth it for Auerbach and the Celtics?
Bird came in during the 1979-80 season and led, at that time, the greatest turn around season in NBA history with a 61-21 record, first place in the Atlantic division and NBA Rookie of the Year.
From there, Bird led the Celtics to a playoff appearance in each of his 13 seasons as a Boston Celtic.
Five times his ball club went to the NBA Finals.
Three times the Celtics won the NBA championship (1981, 1984, 1986) with Bird. He was an NBA Finals MVP for the 1984 and 1986 titles.
Bird won NBA MVP three straight years from 1984-1986. He was a 12-time All-Star and a nine-time All-NBA.
By the time Bird retired, he and Magic Johnson revitalized the NBA and put the sport back on the map.
Larry Bird made the 50 Greatest NBA Players of All time and of course became a Hall of Famer.
Red Auerbach, once again, out-foxed the rest of the NBA.
Was Bird worth the wait? Absolutely.
1. 1956: A Franchise Making Deal: Celtics Trade Ed MaCauley and the Rights to Cliff Hagan for the #2 Pick in the Draft
The Boston Celtics were a young franchise trying to become relevant in the league.
Red Auerbach was also an up and coming coach trying to put the franchise on the map.
He had already drafted point guard Bob Cousy in 1955 and had star forward Ed MacCauley. But the Celtics needed a tall, defensive player who could dominate the boards.
Auerbach went to St. Louis, with the hopes of obtaining the No. 2 pick of the draft. Red knew that the Rochester Royals coveted Sihugo Green out of Duquesne.
Red wanted a tall, lanky center from San Francisco named Bill Russell.
Auerbach sent All-Star forward Ed MacCauley and Cliff Hagan for the No. 2 pick, which turned out to be Russell.
Russell became one of the most dominant centers in the game.
What Red got from Russell was 12 All-Star appearances, five MVPs, three First-Team All-NBA as well as a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Russell delivered 11 NBA titles. He was the centerpiece to one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports.
Boston won eight straight titles. Russell was a player/coach for the Celts and guided them to two of his 11 championships.
Sihugo Green? He played nine seasons in the NBA, mostly as a role player.