By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
With 17 NBA championships to their credit, the Boston Celtics are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. The team has retired 22 jersey numbers, and no fewer than 45 members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame once wore a Celtic uniform.
But who are the greatest Celtics of them all? Here is one subjective all-time roster. This was a difficult exercise, and longtime Celtics fans may disagree with the exclusion of Tom Heinsohn, Don Nelson, KC Jones, “Cornbread” Maxwell, Danny Ainge, Bill Walton, Reggie Lewis, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. (Jayson Tatum is well on his way to being an all-time Celtic great, too.) But here are the 15 Celtic greats who did make the cut:
THE STARTING FIVE:
C – BILL RUSSELL: Arguably the greatest player in the history of team sports. Served as the centerpiece of 11 Celtics championship teams. A 5x NBA MVP and 12x All-Star. Averaged 15.1 and an astounding 22.5 rebounds per game in his 13 seasons in Boston.
F – KEVIN McHALE: Teamed with Larry Bird and Robert Parish to form perhaps the most formidable frontcourt in NBA history. Won three NBA titles and was a 7x All-Star. Averaged 17.9 points and 7.3rebounds a game in his 13 NBA seasons, all with the Celtics.
F – LARRY BIRD: “Larry Legend” led Boston to three NBA titles in his 13 seasons in the league. Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. 12x All-Star and 3x league MVP. Averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.
G – SAM JONES: Won 10 NBA titles in Boston, second only to Bill Russell. A 5x All-Star. Played 12 seasons in Boston, averaging 17.7 points a contest.
G – BOB COUSY: One-time NBA assist king helped the Celtics win six league championships. A 1x NBA MVP and 13x All-Star. Led the league in assists for eight straight seasons. As a Celtic, averaged 18.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game.
OFF THE BENCH:
C – ROBERT PARISH: “Chief.” Won three NBA titles with the Celtics. 9x All-Star. Averaged 16.5 points and 10 boards per game. Later won a fourth championship ring with the Chicago Bulls.
C – DAVE COWENS: One-time NBA MVP won two league titles with Boston. 8x NBA All-Star.
F – JOHN HAVLICEK: A 13x All-Star, “Hondo” helped the Celtics capture 8 NBA championships. Averaged 20.8 points and 6.3 boards per game in his 16 seasons in Boston.
F – PAUL PIERCE: Teamed with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to bring the 2008 NBA title back to Beantown. A 10x All-Star. Averaged 21.8 points and 6 rebounds in his 15 seasons as a Celtic.
F – KEVIN GARNETT: Spent only six seasons in Boston, but brought his team a league title in 2008. Averaged 15.7 points and 8.3 boards per game in Celtic green. A 15x All-Star.
F – PAUL SILAS: An unstoppable rebounder, Silas was perhaps the NBA’s original “Sixth Man.” Contributed to three Celtic championship teams and was a 2x All-Star. Averaged 11.5 and 12.3 rebounds a game in Boston.
G – DENNIS JOHNSON: “DJ” was a defensive stopper who steady backcourt player on Boston’s title teams in the 1980s. Helped the Celtics win two league championships. 5x NBA All-Star. Averaged 12.6 points and 6.4 assists per game in a Boston uniform.
G – JO JO WHITE: Helped Boston to a pair of league titles and set the franchise record for consecutive games played (488). The 1976 NBA Finals MVP. 7x All-Star. Played 10 seasons in Boston, averaging 18.4 points and 5.1 assists.
G – NATE ARCHIBALD: One of basketball’s greatest “little men.” Was one of the league’s best players before joining the Celtic. Remains the only player in history to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season. Adjusted his game to fit in with the Celtics’ system. The 6x All-Star helped Boston claim the 1981 championship. Averaged 12.5 points and 7.1 assists in five seasons in Boston.
G – BILL SHARMAN: Teamed with Bob Cousy to form one of the greatest backcourts in early NBA history. 4x NBA champion and 8x All-Star. Averaged 18.1 points per game in his 10 seasons as a Celtic.
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