Hate them or love them [and most people choose the former], the Boston Celtics are one of the most storied franchises in NBA history. In their 75 seasons of existence they have won 17 NBA titles, a number matched only by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Though much of the success the franchise enjoyed in the distant past, they remain home to some of the most loyal and passionate fans in sports.
Here is a look at the ten best players to ever lace up for the Boston Celtics.
Don Nelson – as a key role player for much of the Celtic’s dynastic run in the 1960s and 70s, Nelson accumulated five NBA championships. Perhaps best remembered for his infamous free throw line jumper that bounced straight up in the air before falling in – a crucial shot that helped Secure Boston’s 11th title.
Ed Macauley – The seven time All-Star played 6 seasons with the Boston Celtics and was an important piece in their 1958 championship run.
Antoine Walker – the three time All-Star is remembered largely for his love of the three point shot. However, along with fellow Celtic legend Paul Pierce, the two made a dangerous one-two punch for the franchise in the early 2000s.
10. Cedric Maxwell
Career stats with the Celtics: 13.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.9 SPG (1977-1985)
From the late 70s through the mid-80s, Cedric Maxwell was an important impact player for the Celtics. As an effective low-post scorer, Cedric helped propel the team to two championships, winning the Finals MVP in 1981.
9. Dave Cowens
Career stats with the Celtics: 18.2 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.2 SPG (1970-1980)
The highly accomplished Cowens spent a decade with the Celtics helping his team win two NBA championships while winning the NBA MVP and All-Star Game MVP award in 1973. He was also an eight time All-Star and made several All-NBA teams.
8. Sam Jones
Career stats with the Celtics: 17.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, N/A SPG (1957-1969)
Ten time NBA champion and five time NBA All-Star, Sam Jones is a bonafide Celtics legend. Jones was a big time clutch shooter for the Celtics and played his entire career with the franchise.
7. Bob Cousy
Career stats with the Celtics: 18.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.6 APG, N/A SPG (1950-1963)
Affectionately known as the Houdini of the Hardwood, Bob Cousy is practically synonymous with Celtics lore. He won 6 championships with the franchise, won the MVP award twice, made twelve All-NBA teams, and led the league in assists on eight occasions.
6. Kevin McHale
Career stats with the Celtics: 17.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.4 SPG (1980-1993)
As one of the primary irritants and instigators against any time the Celtics faced, it is easy to forget that McHale was actually great at basketball. He played his entire career for the Celtics and was a key part in their championships in 1980, 1984, and 1986.
Career stats with the Celtics: 16.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.8 SPG (1980-1994)
Noticing a pattern yet? The Celtics were absolutely loaded in the 1980s. Though not a Celtics lifer, Parish spent 14 of his 21 years in the NBA with the Celtics and made nine All-Star teams while playing with the Celtics.
Career stats with the Celtics: 20.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 SPG (1962-1978)
Another Celtics lifer, Havlicek was an eight time NBA champion, Finals MVP in 1974, thirteen time All-Star and four time All-NBA first team – just to name a few of his accolades. Originally drafted to both the NBA and the NFL, he eventually decided to focus on playing with the Celtics. He remains the all-time leader of points scored in Celtics history.
3. Paul Pierce
Career stats with the Celtics: 21.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.4 SPG (1998-2013)
Before finally teaming up with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to return championship glory to the Celtics, Paul Pierce single-handedly made the Celtics watchable for years while toiling with very little help. Though sadly not a Celtics lifer, for younger fans, he is synonymous with Celtics pride.
2. Larry Bird
Career stats with the Celtics: 24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG (1979-1992)
Larry legend was by far the best player for a franchise that was loaded with talent in the 1980s. Remembered for his epic battle with contemporary Magic Johnson, Larry Bird is revered by Celtics fans young and old as one of the cornerstones in their franchise’s history.
1. Bill Russell
Career stats with the Celtics: 15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, N/A SPG (1956-1969)
The man single handedly most responsible for establishing the Boston Celtics as a storied franchise. He holds the record for most championships by any player with eleven. His prolific defensive prowess is the stuff of legend – drastically limiting the success of the incomparable Wilt Chamberlain. The definition of greatness and epitome of Celtics glory.
Clint is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and contributed to various sports publications prior to his work with Upside Hoops.