Since I recently wrote about the Best Los Angeles Lakers of all time, I figured it was only fair to compile a list of their greatest rivals as well. Much like the Yankees in baseball and the Montreal Canadiens in hockey, the Boston Celtics have been, in their history, the most dominant team in the sport of basketball, and with so many great teams and players to choose from narrowing down the list of the top 10 Boston Celtics ever was a difficult task. Here are my picks for the greatest Boston Celtics to ever wear the green and gold (or green and white):
10 – Robert Parish
This stoic giant was nicknamed “The Chief” after the a mute Native American character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Silent he may have been, but this towering Celtics’ center let his play on the court do the talking for him, dominating at the defensive end and chipping in with big points. He played 14 seasons for the Boston Celtics, winning 3 NBA championships during his time there. When he finished his career, he’d played more games (1,611) than any other player in NBA history, and amassed over 23,000 points. Good enough, I think, to gain entry to the list of the top 10 Boston Celtics of all time.
9 – Kevin Garnett
Though he only played a total of six seasons for the Celtics, this dominant big man did enough during that time to make his way onto this list. A lanky power forward, Garnett was one of the best all-around players in the NBA during his early years with the Celts, and though he didn’t put up the big numbers he did in Minnesota, his presence in the middle turned the club into an instant contender upon his arrival. Stuck on a mediocre team, Garnett never got a chance to really show how dominant he could be. But, with the help of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Garnett did what Tim Duncan has done so often for the Spurs: led his team to an NBA championship.
8 – Kevin McHale
Larry Bird was the Boston Celtics’ superstar during their dominant run in the first half of the 1980s, but he didn’t bring them NBA championship glory all by himself. He had some great teammates, and one of the best of them was Kevin McHale, who along with Bird and Parish formed “The Big Three”, one of the most dominant trios in NBA basketball history. He helped the team to 3 NBA championships and went to the All-star game 7 times, once as a starter. He also led the NBA is field goal percentage for 2 consecutive seasons, shooting over 60% during that span.
7 – Dennis Johnson
Want to know why Dennis Johnson comes in at number 7 on the list of the top 10 Boston Celtics of all time? Just ask Larry Bird. Bird called Johnson the greatest teammate he ever played with. Not bad praise coming from a guy with a resume like Bird’s. Though half of his NBA playing career was spent as a member of other franchises, his contributions as a member of the Celtics can’t be discounted. He was a dominant defensive player, and is best known for his stellar defensive work against Magic Johnson in those legendary match-ups against the Lakers in the 80s. He won 3 titles in his career, and his stingy defense and clutch scoring make him a worthy addition to the list of the greatest Celtics ever.
6 – Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce might not have gained the recognition that many other legendary Celtics have, but “The Truth” has been putting up All-star numbers ever since the Celtics selected him 10th overall in the 1998 draft. Pierce has been to the All-star game 10 times during his career, was the 2007-08 NBA Finals MVP, and once put up 50 points in a single game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has spent his entire 16 year career with the Celtics, amassing over 25,000 points, good enough for second all-time in Celtics history.
5 – John Havlicek
Yet another player from the legendary Celtic dynasty that dominated the 50s and 60s, Havlicek helped his team win 8 NBA championships during his time with the Celtics. He is credited with revolutionizing the role of the 6th man, coming off the bench to dominate late in games. He is also credited with arguably the greatest steal in the history of the game when he stole the ball on an inbound play with seconds left in game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Championship, preserving a 1 point win for his team over Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers, and helping propel his team to the finals and other NBA title that year.
4 – Sam Jones
Now we’re going way back in the history of the Celtics to find this legendary point guard. With a nickname like “Mr. Clutch” no one needs to guess why this gentleman has found his way onto the list of the top 10 Boston Celtics of all time. He led the Celtics in scoring 3 times, and helped his team win an incredible 10 championship titles, the second most in NBA history. He once scored 51 points in a single game, and poured in more than 15,000 points during his impressive career.
3 – Bob Cousy
Well, it wasn’t much of a mystery which players were going to be in the top 3 on this list of the greatest Celtics ever, but now the order they will be counted down in is becoming clearer. Cousy is considered one of the best point guards in NBA history, and is truly one of the sport’s all time greatest passers. Much like Magic Johnson, John Stockton and now Steve Nash, Cousy seemed to see the game develop in slow motion, passing the ball through outstretched arms and legs to find an opponent teammate for an easy lay-up. Running the offense while Bill Russell dominated on the defensive end, Cousy helped the Celtics win 8 straight NBA championships.
2 – Larry Bird
It was a tough choice to put Larry Bird at the number two spot on this list of all time Boston Celtic greats, but difficult decisions have to be made when you are dealing with a franchise that has boasted this many legendary players. Bird may have played as a “small forward” but there was nothing small about his game. He was a diehard competitor that would do whatever it took to win, a clutch shooter who saved his best for the biggest games, and an all-around dominant player who controlled the game like few in the sport before or since. In his career he was a 3 time NBA champion, a 3 time NBA MVP, and a 12 time All-star. His head to head match-up against Magic Johnson in the 80s is one of the most legendary rivalries in the history of basketball, or any sport for that matter, and had it not been for Magic and the Lakers, Bird’s Celtics might have enjoyed as much success as Russell and Cousy did in the 60s.
1 – Bill Russell
Not only is he the greatest Boston Celtic of all time, Bill Russell is widely recognized as being one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. It is not often that a player known predominantly for his defensive abilities achieves such high praise, but Russell was so much better than everyone else on the defensive end of the ball it would be a crime not to acknowledge him at the number 1 spot on this list of the top 10 Boston Celtic players ever. He is the only man in NBA history to win 11 Championships, and the mark ties him with Henri Richard of the Montreal Canadiens for the most in professional North American sports. He was the league MVP 5 times during his incredible career, and made 12 appearances in the All-star game. He is considered the best rebounder to ever play the game, averaging over 23 a season on a regular basis, and is one of only 2 players to ever pull down 50 rebounds in a single game.
Featured image by Keith Allison