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Are the Boston Celtics Too Old To Win an NBA Championship?

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Are the Boston Celtics Too Old To Win an NBA Championship?
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The Boston Celtics are old. In signing Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal they certainly didn't make themselves any younger. On the other hand they have some key players that are relatively young in Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, and they went to the NBA finals last year. The question then becomes, are they too old now? For that matter, how old is too old?

That question may be impossible to answer, but what we can do is compare them with the oldest team to ever win an NBA title, the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, and see how they measure up. If they are younger than a team that won a title, then it might be surmised that they aren't "too old."

Even then there are some different factors to consider. First, since I'm assuming the Celtics will make it to the playoffs, I'm only counting what I believe will be principle playoff contenders.

Second, since we're talking about the championship I'm comparing the ages the players would be during the Finals June 1 of the year they are playing, i.e. 6/1/2011 and 6/1/1998.

Third, I'm only comparing those of the principle players—those who played 100 or more postseason minutes or whom I think will play that much. I don't want Jud Buechler confusing the picture here. So, without further ado, let's just look at the players and their ages, along with the average age of the teams. 

 

THE 1997-1998 CHICAGO BULLS


Player Birth Date Age at Finals
Dennis Rodman 5/13/1961 37.08
Michael Jordan 2/17/1963 35.31
Bill Wennington 5/26/1963 35.04
Ron Harper 1/20/1964 34.39
Scottie Pippen 9/25/1965 32.70
Steve Kerr 9/27/1965 32.70
Randy Brown 5/22/1968 30.05
Toni Kukoc 9/18/1968 29.72
Luc Longley 1/19/1969 29.38
Scott Burrell 1/12/1971 27.40
Keith Booth 10/09/1974 23.66
AVERAGE
31.58

 

 

THE 2010-2011 BOSTON CELTICS


Player Birth Date Age at Finals
Shaquille O'Neal 4/16/1972 39.18
Ray Allen 7/20/1975 35.80
Kevin Garnettt 5/19/1976 35.06
Paul Pierce 10/13/1977 33.65
Jermaine O'Neal 10/13/1978 32.65
Marquis Daniels 1/7/1981 30.42
Nate Robinson 5/31/1984 27.02
Kendrick Perkins 11/10/1984 26.57
Rajon Rondo 2/22/1986 25.29
AVERAGE   31.12

 

The Chicago Bulls who won were actually older than these Celtics will be, so at a cursory glance, it seems we've answered our question. But there are still two more questions I had.

First, how do the starting five of the two teams stack up against one another. I used my judgement to determine what the Celtics' starting five would be, and the Bulls' most common starting five. I am using Kendrick Perkins as the Celtics' starting center, giving the Celtics the benefit of the doubt he'll be back and healthy by then. 

 

THE 1997-1998 CHICAGO BULLS


Player Birth Date Age at Finals
Dennis Rodman 5/13/1961 37.08
Michael Jordan 2/17/1963 35.31
Scottie Pippen 9/25/1965 32.70
Toni Kukoc 9/18/1968 29.72
Luc Longley 1/19/1969 29.38
AVERAGE   32.84

 

THE 2010-2011 BOSTON CELTICS

Player Birth Date Age at Finals
Ray Allen 7/20/1975 35.89
Kevin Garnet 5/19/1976 35.06
Paul Pierce 10/13/1977 33.65
Kendrick Perkins 11/10/1984 26.57
Rajon Rondo 2/22/1986 25.29
AVERAGE   31.29

 

So, once again the Bulls still look older, and if you're looking at age only then you'd have to concur that it's possible for a team as "old" as the Celtics to win a championship. However there's one other thing I wanted to take into consideration. Are Michael Jordan's 35 years really the same as Kevin Garnett's?

Jordan took some time off to play baseball. Garnett played out of high school. We're learning that 35 isn't the same when you're talking about kids who came out of high school. When I looked at minutes, I found out that Garnett has played more minutes already than Jordan or Scottie Pippen did during their entire careers, and he's about 5,000 more than either had played during the finals.

 

Ray Allen also already has more minutes played than those two had when they won. Pippen will be about even with where they were at the end of the season. So, in terms of age they might not be too old, but in terms of minutes played by a nucleus of players, I don't know if there's a group with that many miles on its tires. 

In the end I don't know whether it can be said that they can't win, but it certainly is a valid question mark. Just because it hasn't been done doesn't mean it can't be done. But the fact it hasn't been done should indicate that history is against them.

A lot will probably depend on how much the Celtics can get from Rondo, and how well Perkins returns from his injury. 

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