After a couple of years on the outside looking in, the Celtics are becoming a relevant threat in the NBA again. Not only are the Celtics 23-14 and third in the Eastern Conference, but they also have the right to swap for the Brooklyn Nets first round draft pick. The Nets currently have the worst record in the NBA. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this team given the way they’re playing and the potential to continue to rise to the top of the NBA. As Celtics fans know, they’re a team rich in history and tradition. Championships are the standard as they have won 17 of them in the past 60 years.
In our latest Titletown Ten post, we’re listing out First Score Boston’s Top Ten Celtics players since 1980. Obviously, there were many players such as John Havlicek and Bill Russell who would be at the top of the list, but we’re going to use 1980 as the starting point today.
Here are First Score Boston’s Top Ten Celtics players since 1980.
#10. Isaiah Thomas: 20015 – Present. Granted, the body of work has been very small up to this point. However, Thomas is about to be an All-Star on the Celtics for the second consecutive season. He’s currently fourth in the NBA in scoring at 28.0 points per game. There’s only one other player on this entire list that has ever averaged 28 points a game in a season for the Celtics. His overall impact is not as great as many of the players that you’ll see on this list, but his scoring impact is outstanding. He has a great opportunity to move up on this list as his tenure with the Celtics increases along with the potential to make championship runs.
#9. Ray Allen: 2007 – 2012. Allen was a big part of the Celtics 2008 NBA Championship. Over the course of five seasons with the Celtics, Allen averaged 16.7 points per game with a field goal percentage of .472 and a three-point percentage of .409. Allen was one of the best pure shooters in the history of the NBA and he was a great fit on this team. Although there were stretches where Allen was inconsistent in the playoffs, he typically could be relied on for big baskets in key moments. He left the Celtics to go to the Heat which left a bitter taste for a lot of Celtics fans, but it certainly doesn’t take anything away from his contributions to the Celtics.
#8. Rajon Rondo: 2006 – 2014. In historical context, Rondo wasn’t the most likable player on the Celtics. He typically complained a lot. He came off as a whiner. There were times where he was a tough player to root for. With that said, he was a very talented player who made some great contributions. At his peak, he was a top ten player in the NBA. He led the NBA in assists in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and he made the All-Star Team in four consecutive seasons with the Celtics. Rondo was never a great shooter, but he was a perfect fit for this Celtics team who had plenty of players who could score.
#7. Antoine Walker: 1996 – 2003; 2004 – 2005. Here are Antoine Walker’s average numbers in eight seasons with the Boston Celtics: 20.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists. Walker was a solid all around player, but didn’t always make full use of his talent because he hung around the three-point line far too much. Because Walker declined significantly late in his career, many fans forget just how good he was early in his career. This was a 20/10 guy on a consistent basis who helped lead the Celtics resurrection to at least get them to the playoffs.
#6. Dennis Johnson: 1983 – 1990. If you were looking at stats alone, “DJ” wouldn’t even be on this list. This was not a numbers guy. This was the guy that did the things that didn’t show up on the stat sheet…and it wasn’t just the little things that you typically hear about. He guarded Magic Johnson in the 1984 NBA Finals. If you go back and watch those games, they certainly weren’t memorable ones for Magic. In addition, this was one of the most clutch players the Celtics ever had.
#5. Kevin Garnett: 2007 – 2013. One debate you typically hear regarding Celtics history is whether or not Kevin Garnett’s number should be retired by the Celtics. The opinion here is yes, it should be. Despite playing just six seasons for the Celtics, Garnett made a huge impact on making the Celtics contenders during his six-year stretch in Boston. He was the true leader of the 2008 championship team and also he also made a big impact in their return to the Finals in 2010. He was an NBA All-Star in five of his six seasons with the Celtics. He was the guy who changed the Celtics culture to a winning one. Isn’t that what being up in the rafters is all about?
#4. Robert Parish: 1980 – 1994. “The Chief” was one of the more underrated players in the NBA. He was overlooked on a team that was filled with superstars. He was a nine-time All-Star for the Celtics and was a big part of three NBA Championships. Parish was as consistent as they come. From 1980 – 1987, he averaged between 16.1 and 19.9 points in every season. In rebounding, those same numbers for rebounding were between 9.5 and 10.8. You knew exactly what you were getting from Robert Parish. Great player.
#3. Paul Pierce: 1998 – 2013. Pierce was the heart and soul of the Celtics during an era that had its ups and downs. During the down years, Pierce was viewed as a stats guy much more than he was viewed as a team guy. When he got the opportunity to showcase his skills in the NBA Finals in 2008, he outplayed Kobe Bryant and was the NBA Finals MVP. Pierce made the All-Star Team ten times for the Celtics. By the end of his tenure with the team, he was being compared to many Celtics great and he added his name to many Celtics milestones. Pierce is a no doubt Hall of Famer and is now being argued as the best pure score in Celtics history.
#2. Kevin McHale: 1980 – 1993. McHale played his entire thirteen year NBA career with the Celtics. He is typically mentioned along with Shaq and Hakeem Olajuwon as the best low post players in NBA history. Similar to Parish, McHale’s numbers don’t jump out at you, but in his peak years, he was unstoppable in the low post. In his best year, 1986-87, McHale average 26 points and 10 rebounds a game and was First Team All-NBA. He finished fourth in the NBA MVP Voting that year. He also made six All-Defensive Teams including three first teams. McHale was a staple on the Celtics three NBA Championships in the 1980’s and there were times that he was the guy the was uncoverable on those Celtics teams.
#1. Larry Bird: 1979-1992. There won’t be anyone debating Larry Legend being #1 on this list of Celtics greats. In his peak years from 1980-1988, Bird won three MVP’s, finished second four times, and finished third once. There aren’t too many players who can say they were in the top two players in the NBA MVP Voting every year over an eight year period. Bird was also the most clutch player in the league during his peak. When the game was close, he demanded the ball and he delivered most of the time. Bird led the Celtics to three championships and defined what being a Boston Celtic was all about. He played hard. He played hurt. And on top of all of that, he was the best player in the world in his prime.
So, there’s our list. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but the original Big Three was far superior to the second one. What a list of players! There are a lot of Hall of Famers on here. Hopefully, the Celtics will continue to trend upward and continue their championship tradition!