I will start this off by saying that I am a diehard Boston Celtics fan. They are quite possibly the best franchise in all of team sports. I know some of you will want to debate that, but in my mind it’s true. There is however, no debating the fact that they were run by the best pro basketball mind out there. Red Auerbach was an absolute genius when it came down to judging talent and getting all his talent to work together. He won nine championships as a coach including eight straight to end his career. Who knows how many rings he would’ve won, had he decided to stay on the bench. The teams that Red and subsequent GM’s have put together were filled with some of the greatest players this game has seen. The Celtics have won 17 NBA championships, have 31 hall of famers and had a whopping 13 players who were named to the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all-time.
This wasn’t an easy list to do, but it was a heck of a lot of fun. I watched plenty of old games to break down the guys I didn’t know as well to make sure I had everyone where they belonged. There are plenty of guys in the hall and even a number of the 50 greatest that didn’t make the cut, however. There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is that you had to spend at least five seasons in Boston. The second is that there are only 25 slots to fill and the third is that it’s based on how you played while as a member of the Celtics. For those reasons, guys like Pete Maravich, Dominque Wilkins, Bob McAdoo, Bailey Howell, Bill Walton and Dave Bing just don’t make the cut. Even fan favorites like Dino Radja, Danny Ainge, Don Chaney, Jim Loscutoff and Dee Brown fall short.
Here is my list of the 25 best Boston Celtics of all-time.
25. Antoine Walker: Walker is one of only three players to make the cut despite not winning a ring. Most of his career was spent during the Celtics dark years, but he averaged more 20 points per game five times and was a three-time all-star.
He played 552 games over eight seasons in Boston and averaged 20.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
24. Don Nelson: He is remembered far more as a coach, but Nelson was an excellent player as well. He played 11 years as a Celtics’ uniform and won five titles.
He played 872 games during his time in Boston and averaged 11.4 points on 48.4 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 21.8 minutes a night.
23. Tom “Satch” Sanders: Sanders spent his entire 13-year career in Boston and has plenty of hardware to show for it with eight championship rings. He was a double figure scorer in nine of those 13 seasons as well as a beast on the glass.
He played 916 games (sixth most) for the Celtics and averaged 9.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 24.2 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 2011 as a contributor.
22. K.C. Jones: Another Celtic lifer as a player, Jones played nine seasons and has eight rings. He wasn’t a great scorer, but could really distribute the ball and was an excellent defender. He returned to Boston as a coach and led the Celtics to four straight finals, winning two.
He played 676 games and averaged 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 25.9 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1989.
21. Frank Ramsey: The sixth overall pick in the 1953 draft spent all nine years of his career wearing Celtics’ green. Ramsey was a great all-around player who retired after winning seven championships.
He played 623 games and averaged 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 24.6 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1982.
20. Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell: Maxwell was one of the most efficient offensive players of his time, once averaging 19 points a game while only attempting 10 shots. He spent eight years in Boston and was a huge part of bringing the Celtics two more rings. He was the finals MVP in the 1980-81 season.
He played 607 games and averaged 13.7 points on 55.9 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 6.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 30.5 minutes.
19. Ray Allen: Allen only spent five seasons in Boston, but was a three-time all-star and a key piece of the Celtics’ last title. While his scoring average, he still had one of the smoothest shots in the game and had the ability to carry the offense when needed.
He played 358 games and averaged 16.7 points on 40.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc to go along with 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 35.7 minutes.
18. Reggie Lewis: He would be much higher on this list had his career and life not ended so tragically at age 27. Lewis spent six years in Boston, including five as a starter. After a rough rookie season, he blossomed in his second year when he averaged almost 19 points a night. His last two seasons, he averaged 20.8 points per game and was an all-star.
He played 450 games and averaged 17.6 points on 48.8 percent shooting from the field to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 32.6 minutes.
17. Nate “Tiny” Archibald: Archibald spend five years in Boston towards the end of his career. Although his offensive numbers had decreased significantly from his younger days, he was still a great lead guard who made three all-stars games.
He played 363 games with the Celtics and averaged 12.5 points, 7.1 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 31.2 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1991.
16. Rajon Rondo: Rondo played nine seasons in Boston and made four all-star games. He is one of the best passers in the game today with top-five finishes in assists four straight years. He was also a great on-ball defender during his time with the Celtics.
He played 527 games and averaged 11 points on 47.3 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 8.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 32.9 minutes.
15. Dennis Johnson: D.J. spent seven great seasons in Boston and helped to lead the Celtics to a pair of championships. After being a scoring machine in Seattle and Phoenix, Johnson came to Boston and became the ultimate playmaker. He was also a lock down defender and great teammate.
He played 541 games and averaged 12.6 points, 6.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 33.9 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 2010.
14. Kevin Garnett: Most Celtics’ fans will freak at his placement here, but this is high as I could go. Garnett was no longer a force offensive while in Boston, but he was still awesome on defense where he earned all defensive first or second team five times. Also a five-time all-star, he was one of the main reasons Boston won the title in 2008.
He played 396 games over six seasons and averaged 15.7 points on 52 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 8.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals and a block in 31 minutes.
13. Jo Jo White: White spent 10 seasons as a Celtic and was a seven-time all-star. He led Boston to two titles while making second-team all NBA twice. He was also the finals MVP in 1976.
He played 717 games and averaged 18.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 37.3 minutes.
12. Robert Parish: Parish had 14 great years in Boston as a part of the first “big-three”. He was a monster on the glass who could score the ball at a very high level. For his efforts, Parish was a nine-time all-star and three-time champ.
He played 1106 games and averaged 16.5 points on 55.2 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 assists in 31.6 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 2003.
11. Tom Heinsohn: Heinsohn played his entire NBA career in Boston and won a title in every season, but one. He played in six all-star games and was all NBA second team four times. He also won two more titles while coaching the Celtics.
He played 654 games over nine seasons and averaged 18.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and two assists in 29.4 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1986.
10. Sam Jones: Jones was a great scorer who averaged more than 19 points a game in six of his 12 years in Boston. He was all NBA second team three times as well as a five-time all-star. He has 10 titles, which is second all-time among players.
He played 871 games and averaged 17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 27.9 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1984.
9. “Easy” Ed Macauley: Macauley was the Celtics’ first big star. He only played six seasons in Boston and was an all-star every year. He was all NBA first-team three times and second-team once. He may best be remembered for being the traded with Cliff Hagan for Bill Russell.
He played 416 games and averaged 18.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 38.5 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1960.
8. Dave Cowens: Cowens was a rebounding force in his 10 years in green where he averaged more than 14 boards a night for his entire career (second on the Celtics’ all-time list). He was an eight-time all-star, the league MVP in 1973 and won two rings.
He played 726 games and averaged 18.2 points, 14 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 39.3 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1991.
7. Paul Pierce: Pierce played 15 seasons in Boston and amassed more than 24,000 points. That makes him the second leading scorer in Celtics history. He was a 10-time all-star and the 2008 finals MVP.
He played 1102 games and averaged 21.8 points, six rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 36.6 minutes.
6. Bill Sharman: Sharman was a great scorer and all-around player who won four NBA titles. He was an eight-time all-star who was first-team all-NBA four times and second-team three more times.
He played 680 games over 10 seasons and averaged 18.1 points on the strength of 88.3 percent shooting from the free-throw line to go along with 3.9 rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1976.
5. Kevin McHale: McHale spent his entire playing career in Boston and was one of the best back-to-the-basket players the games has ever seen . He also garnered two sixth man of the year awards and was a seven-time all-star. He made all-defensive team six times and helped lead Boston to three championships.
He played 971 games over 13 seasons and averaged 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.7 blocks in 31 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball the Hall of Fame in 1999.
4. John Havlicek: Havlicek was a stat stuffer and all-around remarkable player. He made all-star game 13 times and won eight NBA titles. Along with all his rings, he also was all-NBA first or second-team 11 times. To top it off, Havlicek made all defensive first or second-team eight times and was the finals MVP in 1974.
He played 1270 games over 16 seasons and averaged 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.6 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1984.
3. Bob Cousy: Cousy played 13 years for the Celtics and made the all-star game every year. He was all-NBA first-team 10 straight years and led the league in assists in eight of those years. He also managed to be top 10 in scoring eight seasons. He was the NBA MVP in 1957 and retired with six rings.
He played 917 games and averaged 18.5 points, 7.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds in 35.5 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1971.
2. Larry Bird: Bird is one of the 10 best players in the history of basketball. He was always one step ahead of everyone else on the floor. He finished his career as a 12-time all-star, while being named all-NBA first-team nine times and was a three-time league MVP. To top off is legendary stretch in Boston, he won three titles where he was finals MVP twice and even made the all defensive second-team three times.
He played 897 games over 13 seasons and averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals in 38.4 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1998.
1. Bill Russell: The best defensive player and winner in the history of the league should no doubt be No. 1 on this list. The amount of hardware that Russell attained in his 13 years in Boston is just staggering. He made 12 all-star games, won 11 rings, earned five MVP awards, and made all-NBA first or second team 11 times. He was also top three in rebounds every season of his career. Shockingly, he also finished top-10 in assists in four different seasons. He also won two NBA titles as a player-coach. You can only imagine how many more lines we could fill if they kept track of stats like steals and blocks back then.
He played 963 games over 13 seasons and averaged 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 42.3 minutes. He was inducted in the basketball hall of fame in 1975.