Boston Celtics: The 15 Most Legendary Players in Franchise History

Jeremy GottliebContributor IAugust 17, 2011

Boston Celtics: The 15 Most Legendary Players in Franchise History

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    The Boston Celtics, also known as the most storied franchise in NBA history, have seen one Hall-of-Famer after another pass through the doors of the fabled, original Boston Garden, and now, the TD Garden, home of the team's league high 17th championship. In honor of the raft of great players to wear Celtic Green over the years, let's take a look at the 15 greatest of all.

15. Nate Archibald/Kevin Garnett/Paul Silas

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    Throughout team history, the C's have employed numerous stars who made their names elsewhere, only to arrive in Boston with more than enough left in the tank to add to their already dazzling resumes. Archibald, Garnett and Silas (not to mention guys like Paul Westphal, Ray Allen, Bailey Howell and Bill Walton) all contributed to Boston championships in the later stages of their careers.

14. Tom "Satch" Sanders

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    Sanders, inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame this past weekend, played 13 seasons for the Celts and contributed all-league defense to eight NBA championships. Sanders, who routinely guarded fellow Hall-of-Famers like Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Bob Pettit over the course of his illustrious career, also coached the C's from 1977-1979 and was named to the Hall as a contributor for work done following his playing career. 

13. Jo Jo White

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    White, a 6'3 guard out of Kansas, played nine and a half seasons for the Celtics, was a seven-time All-Star and won two championships in 1974 and 1976. He was named the MVP of the 1976 Finals win over the Phoenix Suns and averaged 17.2 points per game over his career, which ended in 1981 after a year and half with the Golden State Warriors and a 13 game stint with the Kansas City Kings. In 1982, the Cetics retired his number 10.

12. Dennis Johnson

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    It was tempting to place DJ in the No. 15 category along with Archibald, Garnett and Silas given the fact that he played seven seasons for two other teams (Seattle and Phoenix) before arriving in Boston for the 1983-1984 season. But despite his prior credentials as a bona fide star (four All-Star berths, a championship and a Finals MVP award with the Sonics in 1979) before becoming a Celtic, it was DJ's accomplishments in Green that put him over the top. Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach brought DJ, a star defender, in to neutralize the Philadelphia 76ers Andrew Toney and slow down Toney he did. He also swarmed Lakers legend Magic Johnson in the 1984 Finals, helping lead the C's to their 15th title. DJ retired in 1990 and had his number retired by the Celts in 1991. He died of a heart attack on February 22, 2007.

11. Robert Parish

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    The Chief, Robert Parish played 15 seasons for the Celts, winning three championships, making nine All-Star teams and being selected to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. Along with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, he was part of the Celts first "Big Three," and his number was retired by the C's in 1998. His 1,611 career games played are an NBA record.

10. Tommy Heinsohn

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    Tommy won eight titles as a player, two as a coach and was affiliated with the C's other seven championships as a broadcaster. He averaged 18.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game through his 10-yar career, and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1973. His broadcasting career began in 1966, was put on hold in 1969 when he succeeded Bill Russell as the Celtics head coach, then resumed in 1981 for the C's local telecasts. He also called games for CBS from 1984-1987, a stretch that included four Finals appearances and two titles for the C's. His number 15 was retired by the C's in 1965 and he entered the Hall of Fame in 1986.

9. Bill Sharman

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    One of the first great Celtics, Sharman starred for the C's from 1951-1961, winning four titles, making eight All-Star teams, earning four All-NBA first team selections and being selected to the Hall of Fame in 1976. Ironically, Sharman would go on to be a Hall of Fame coach as well, with the Los Angles Lakers. As Lakers coach, Sharman was named Coach of the Year in 1972, winning a title for L.A. that same year.

8. Paul Pierce

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    The Captain and the Truth, Pierce has worn Celtics Green for all 12 of his NBA seasons, and was rewarded after a few lean years in the mid-aughts with his first NBA championship in 2008. Along with Larry Bird and John Havlicek, Pierce is one of three players to score 20,000 career points for the C's. A first-round pick out of Kansas in 1998, Pierce is a nine time All-Star and was named Finals MVP of the Celts 17th championship series win.

7. Kevin McHale

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    Widely thought of as the greatest low-post player of all time, McHale was the second cog in the original "Big Three," arriving on the Celtics scene in 1980 and immediately contributed to the first of his three championships in 1981. He was a seven time All-Star, a two-time Sixth Man of the Year and was selected to three All-Defensive first teams as well as one All-NBA first team. The Celtics retired his number 32 in 1994 and he was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1999. 

6. Dave Cowens

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    An 11-year Celtic as well as a one-year player/coach, Cowens averaged 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. He was the fourth overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft and went on to win two championships, the league MVP award in 1973 as well as the 1971 Rookie of the Year award. He made seven All-Star teams, was an All-Defensive first teamer in 1976, had his number 18 retired in 1981 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.   

5. Sam Jones

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    One of the most unheralded of the Celtics greats, Jones played 13 seasons for the Celts and won 10 championships, a number exceeded only by his longtime teammate, Bill Russell. Known as one of the "Jones Boys," due to his backcourt pairing with K.C. Jones in the 60's, Sam averaged 17.7 points per game over his career, made five All-Star teams and led the C's in scoring three times. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 and was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1996.

4. John Havlicek

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    Arguably the most recognizable of the Celtics legends, Hondo Havlicek played 16 years in Green, winning eight championships, more than all but two players in league history (teammates Sam Jones and Bill Russell). Havlicek, one of the best defensive players ever, was drafted in the first round of the 1962 NBA Draft and went on to make 13 All-Star teams, four All-NBA first teams and five All-Defensive first teams. He is the Celts all-time leader in games played (1,270) and points scored (26,395) and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.

3. Bob Cousy

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    The inventor of the modern point guard position, the Cooz was the first of the all-time Celtics, playing 14 seasons in Green and leading the league in assists eight times in his first 11 years in the league. Nicknamed "The Houdini of the Hardwood," Cousy won six championships, was a 13-time All-Star and a 10-time All-NBA first teamer. He was the league MVP in 1957 and finished his career with 16,980 points and 6,955 assists in 924 career games. The Cooz was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971, the same year the Celtics retired his number 14.

2. Larry Bird

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    With the Celtics sliding from the ranks of the league's elite in 1978, team president Red Auerbach drafted Larry Joe Bird sixth overall even though he still had another year of college ball to play. Bird joined the C's in 1979 and went on to lead the franchise back to glory—spearheading three title runs and two other Finals appearances. Bird was the league MVP three years running (1984-1986), made 12 All-Star teams in 13 seasons and was All-NBA first team nine times. He averaged 24.3 points and 10 rebounds per game over his career, spent entirely in Boston. The Celts retired his number 33 in 1993 and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.

1. Bill Russell

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    The greatest champion of all time, Russ is the proud owner of 11 NBA titles, most in league history. Russell played 14 years for the Celts, earning league MVP honors five times. Russell also won two NCAA championships at the University of San Francisco and an Olympic gold medal in 1956. His battles with Wilt Chamberlain rank among the greatest rivalries in league history, with the defensive minded Russell almost always getting the best of his coring machine counterpart. Russell won his final title in 1969, his second as a C's player and coach. In 2009, the NBA fittingly named the Finals MVP award after Russell.