Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and the Boston Celtics' 10 Biggest Playoff Tormentors
First things first—Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire did not make the list of Top 10 Celtics' playoff tormentors.
After the Celtics swept the New York Knicks on Sunday, spirits are high in Boston. The team has a week off to prepare for the Heat (most likely), and the extra rest will do the team well.
While the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are still vying to advance to the Eastern Conference Semis, both teams have laid the groundwork, so that they could possibly add themselves to this list in the near future.
For now, let’s look back at the teams and players that have made a name for themselves in Celtics history, and the teams that have earned the right to be thought of as the greatest competitors Boston has faced in its playoff career.
Honorable Mention: Jermaine O’Neal, Indiana Pacers
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Jermaine O’Neal gets an honorable mention as a Celtics tormentor, despite being a current member of the team.
The 2005 opening round playoff series between the Celtics and O’Neal’s Pacers was a rough-and-tumble affair that saw a monumental collapse by Boston in Game 7.
Led by O’Neal and Stephen Jackson, the Pacers blew the Celtics out of their own arena with a crushing 97-70 victory.
In three playoff series as a Pacer, O’Neal averaged 19.1 PPG and 11.4 RPG against Boston.
10. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
The Bulls never won a game against the Celtics in the two series featuring Michael Jordan, but it was Jordan’s playoff record of 63 points that earns him a spot on the list.
On April 20th, 1986, Boston and Chicago met in a first-round matchup at the Boston Garden. The Celtics were the heavy favorites, but Jordan put forth an effort for the ages, pushing the game into double-overtime.
The Celtics would eventually prevail 135-131, but Jordan kept the game close and was responsible for hitting a couple of clutch free throws to move the game into the first overtime.
Jordan’s record came a mere nine days before the Red Sox’s Roger Clemens set a record for 20 strikeouts in one game, capping off a historic month in Boston.
Honorable mention: Elgin Baylor’s 61 points in 1962 against Boston.
9. Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks
While the Atlanta Hawks never have beat the Celtics in a playoff series, Dominique Wilkins almost single-handedly pushed the Hawks past Boston in 1988.
Wilkins scored 47 points in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semis, but Larry Bird matched Wilkins production down the stretch, as the two traded off points.
With only seconds left, and Wilkins at the free throw line, Nique intentionally missed a free throw, but the board wound up in the hands of Robert Parish, and the Celtics prevailed.
8. Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets
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Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets got the better of the Celtics in each of Boston’s first two trips back to the playoffs (02-03) after a six year absence.
While Celtics’ fans will certainly remember the stunning come from behind victory in 2002, the Nets were able to shut out Boston and win the remaining games in the series.
The following year the Nets swept Boston, spurring a drought in playoff series victories for the Celtics until they won it all in 2008.
During his early 2000’s battles with the Celtics, Kidd averaged nearly a triple-double, putting up 18.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 9.7 APG.
7. Dolph Schayes, Syracuse Nationals
Before the Celtics ever won their first Championship, the Syracuse Nationals were busy staking claim to their only title, which happened to come against the C’s in 1955.
Led by Dolph Schayes, Syracuse bumped off of the Celtics in one of the most physical NBA Finals in history. Things were so rugged that the final game saw a 25-minute brawl erupt before order was restored.
Schayes was injured during the fight, but the damage was done and Syracuse prevailed in the series.
6. The Detroit Pistons
In the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics literally stole the series from Detroit thanks to the last second heroics of Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson in Game 5.
The Pistons would have to wait a year to get their revenge. Unfortunately for the Celtics, the bad boys of Detroit would enact their revenge over three of the next four years.
The Pistons collectively put an end to the Celtics Dynasty of the 80’s, beating Boston in 1988, 1989 and 1991. Boston would win a memorable series against the Pacers the following year, but would fall into a state of disrepair shortly thereafter.
Honorable mention: Vinnie Johnson in the 1985 playoffs.
5. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Love him or hate him, Kobe Bryant has played a prominent role in keeping the Lakers/Celtics rivalry alive.
Bryant was on the floor when Boston won its first championship in 22 years, and again when the Lakers came from behind to take out the Celtics last season.
While Kobe is only a career 41-percent shooter against the Celtics in the playoffs, he is the current leader of the franchise that will always be considered the archrivals of one another.
4. Andrew Toney, Philadelphia 76ers
Andrew Toney was affectionately dubbed The Boston Strangler by the city’s media for his scintillating play during the 1982 season, specifically during a 25-point fourth quarter performance versus the Celtics right before the playoffs started.
When the Sixers met the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, not much had changed with Toney as he was still a Celtics killer.
Toney averaged 22.1 PPG in the series and scored 34 points in the final game as the Sixers beat Boston, on the Celtics’ home court, in a 120-106 Game 7 victory.
It was during this game that Celtics fans first coined the infamous phrase “Beat LA”, as a show of respect to their superiors who were about to advance to the Finals to face the Lakers.
3. Bob Petit, St. Louis Hawks
Bob Petit’s greatest playoff accomplishment came at the expense of the Celtics during the 1958 Finals.
Petit netted 50 points in Game 6, shocking the Celtics, and eking out a 1-point championship victory for the St. Louis Hawks. To date, it is the Hawks only NBA title.
One point changed the course of history between the Celtics having ten straight championships versus the eight they wound up with. The Hawks are also the only teams besides the Lakers to beat Boston in an NBA Finals series.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers and Celtics dominated the 1980’s. Both teams combined for eight of the NBA’s ten titles during the decade.
The 1985 series was particularly tough as the Celtics lost to the Lakers in Boston. Kareem was named the finals MVP that season.
Kareem was a non-factor in Game 1, but responded by putting up a near triple-double in Game 2, setting the tone for the rest of series.
1. Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers
Magic earns the distinction of being the top Celtics tormentor off all-time, and for good reasons.
He was the leader of a Lakers team that beat Boston twice during the 80’s, and one of the driving forces behind the most storied rivalry in basketball.
Magic was named the 1987 NBA Finals MVP for heroics that included his patented baby hook with the clock winding down in Game 4.
The Lakers and Celtics reinvigorated the NBA in the early 80’s thanks to the superstar players each team was able to land. While that time period will always be memorable in Boston, the Lakers were the better team, and theirs is no denying the stamp Magic Johnson put on the era.