Last week, a Celtics analyst gave an opinion on who is the best all around Celtics player of all time. This debate has been made for many years as there are two players at the top who any fan could make an argument for. However, after Bill Russell and Larry Bird, there’s a drop off. John Havlicek may squeak into a conversation from time to time, but no other names are discussed.
Until August 8, 2018…
Appearing on a Celtics Beat podcast, Cedric Maxwell stated the following. “Kevin Garnett is the best all-around player the Celtics ever had. He was a better defensive player than Larry. Not as good offensively. He was a better offensive player than Bill Russell, but not as good defensively. But you could say that Kevin Garnett was no slouch at either one of those things. He’s one of the top players to ever play the game.” Maxwell continued by saying “if you look at that first year he came here Kevin Garnett was an MVP candidate.” “That’s how good Kevin Garnett was.”
Where to start…
There are takes that we listen to and say “that’s a stretch”, but this one has to have some type of agenda because it makes no sense.
What is this about? Is Maxwell still bitter at Larry Legend for his exit in 1985? The trade for Bill Walton worked out for the Celtics.
And what’s with completely passing Bill Russell over?
The worst part of the quote was that Maxwell uses that Kevin Garnett was an “MVP candidate” in his first year with the Celtics. Bill Russell won the MVP Award five times. Bird won it three times. Garnett finished third in 2008. He never cracked the top ten again in his Celtics career. Using the “MVP candidate” in one year on a team with the history this Celtics team has is an absolute joke.
Kevin McHale finished 4th in 1987. Does that make him the second best Celtic ever?!
Bill Russell was a better basketball player than Kevin Garnett. It’s not even worth debating. Neither is Larry, but for fun, let’s just show how off base this statement is.
Here are five points (in addition to the laughable “MVP candidate” statement) that show how much better of a player Larry Bird was than Kevin Garnett.
1. In Kevin Garnett’s BEST season with the Celtics, he averaged 18.8 points per game. That was the year Maxwell referenced. In Larry Bird’s WORST season of 13 with the Celtics, he averaged 19.4 points per game. Bird averaged 24.3 points over his Celtics career. Garnett averaged 15.7. We all know this isn’t just about scoring as Maxwell pointed out, but a nine point average difference can’t be dismissed.
2. Kevin Garnett, who was known as a great rebounder, was never as good of a rebounder as Larry Bird with the Celtics. In fact, Garnett averaged 8.3 rebounds per game in his Celtics career. Bird averaged 10.0. This is important as the rebounding aspect of the game is often highlighted as a top quality of Garnett and for Bird it often gets overlooked.
3. Kevin Garnett was a better defensive player than Larry Bird as it was pointed out. However, one may be surprised to know that Bird averaged 1.7 steals per game as a Celtic. Garnett averaged 1.3. Blocks is 1.4 to 0.8 in favor of Garnett. Not the nine point average as referenced in point #1.
4. Stats aside, Bird and Garnett were never about numbers. Their impact as leaders were a huge part of their greatness. Larry Bird was a better WINNER than Kevin Garnett. His all around play led the Celtics to wins and to three championships. Put stats aside, if you needed to win a game seven of a playoff series, is ANYONE including Kevin Garnett taking Kevin Garnett over Larry Bird????
5. With the game on the line, every Celtics coach, player, and fan is taking Larry Bird over Kevin Garnett. Every. Time. Clutch play is a big factor in all around play.
Larry Bird was the best all around player in the NBA over a span of nine seasons from 1980-1988. Go ahead and throw Magic in there, but do so knowing that Bird finished ahead of him in the MVP voting in every season during those nine years with the exception of 1987.
Kevin Garnett was a key player on a team that won a title and was a contender for six seasons. Great player. Never at an elite level like Bird and Russell.
Kevin Garnett is not only not the best all around player in Celtics history. He’s not even in the top ten.
It’s a shame that a player who SHOULD know about Bird’s impact more than anyone doesn’t give him the credit he deserves.
The reality is that #31 would not be up in the rafters if #33 didn’t play for the Celtics. Yet, there still seems to be a level of major disregard from #31 for how Bird not only changed the Celtics, but also the NBA.