The Boston Celtics are a professional basketball team based in Boston, Massachusetts. The team is owned by Wycliffe Grousbeck and coached by Doc Rivers, with Danny Ainge as the general manager. Founded in 1946, the Celtics have been playing in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference in the National Basketball Association for over 60 years. Their 16 NBA Championships are the most for any NBA franchise, while the 1959-to-1966 domination of the NBA Championship, with eight straight titles, is the longest consecutive championship winning streak of any North American professional sports team to date. They currently play their home games in the TD Banknorth Garden.
The Celtics either dominated the league or played a large part in the playoffs in the late 1950's through the mid 1980's. After the death of their top draft pick Len Bias, just two days after the draft, the team fell into a steady decline, only making the playoffs four times from 1996 to 2007. The franchise has recently returned to dominance with the acquisition of power forward Kevin Garnett and shooting guard Ray Allen during the 2007 off-season.
- For details, see: History of the Boston Celtics
1946-1956: The building of a dynasty
The Celtics were formed in 1946 as a team in the Basketball Association of America, and became part of the National Basketball Association (NBA) after the merger of the BAA and the National Basketball League to form the NBA in the fall of 1949. In 1950, the Celtics became the first franchise to draft an African American player, signing Chuck Cooper.
The Celtics had struggled during their early years, until the hiring of Coach Red Auerbach. One of the first major players to join the Celtics was Bob Cousy, whom Auerbach initially refused to draft. Cousy eventually became the property of the Chicago Stags. When that franchise went bankrupt, Cousy was acquired by the Celtics in a dispersal draft. After the 1955-56 season, Auerbach made a stunning trade. He sent perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer Ed Macauley to the St. Louis Hawks along with the draft rights to Cliff Hagan in exchange for the Hawks' first round draft pick, the second overall. After negotiating with the Rochester Royals, Auerbach used the pick to select University of San Francisco center Bill Russell. Auerbach also acquired Holy Cross standout, and 1957 NBA Rookie of the Year, Tommy Heinsohn. Russell and Heinsohn worked extraordinarily well with Cousy, and they were the players around whom Auerbach would build the Celtics for more than a decade. Russell, who joined mid-season in order to play for the US olympic team, had an immediate impact during 1957.
1957-1969: The dynasty
Russell joined the Celtics in December of 1956 and went on to play most every game during which the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals and defeated the St. Louis Hawks in seven games, giving the Celtics the first of their record 16 NBA Championships. In 1958, the Celtics again advanced to the NBA Finals, this time losing to the Hawks in 6 games. However, with the acquisition of K.C. Jones that year, the Celtics began a dynasty that would last for more than a decade. In 1959, with Cousy at point guard, Russell at center and Heinsohn at forward, the Celtics won the NBA Championship after sweeping the Minneapolis Lakers. Still coached by Auerbach, the Celtics won seven more consecutive championships, extending their streak to eight in a row. During that timespan, the Celtics met the Lakers in the Finals six times, starting an intense and often bitter rivalry. The Celtics would eventually meet the Lakers a total of 10 times in the NBA Finals. In 1964, Auerbach made the Celtics the first team to have an all African American starting lineup.
After the 1966 championship, Auerbach retired as coach and Russell took over as player-coach. With his appointment, Russell also became the first African American coach in the NBA. Auerbach would remain the General Manager, a position he would hold well into the 1980s. However, that year the Celtics' string of NBA titles was broken as they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The aging team managed two more championships in 1968 and 1969, defeating the Lakers each time in the NBA Finals. Russell retired after the 1969 season, effectively ending a dominant Celtics dynasty that had garnered 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons. The streak of 8 consecutive NBA championships is the longest streak of consecutive championships in U.S. professional sports history.
1970-1978: Rebuilding the dynasty
The 1970 season was a rebuilding year, as the Celtics had their first losing record since the 1949-50 season, the year prior to Auerbach's arrival. However, with the acquisition of Dave Cowens, Paul Silas, and Jo Jo White, the Celtics soon became dominant again. After losing in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1972, the Celtics regrouped and came out determined in 1973 and posted an excellent 68-14 regular season record. But the season ended in disappointment, as they were upset in 7 games by the New York Knicks in the Conference Finals and became the team with the best record ever to have failed to make the Finals. The Celtics returned to the playoffs the next year, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals in 1974 for their 12th NBA Championship. The teams split the first four games, and after the Celtics won Game 5 in Milwaukee they headed back to Boston leading three games to two, with a chance to claim the title on their home court. However, the Bucks won Game 6 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar nestled in a hook shot with three seconds left in the game's second overtime, and the series returned to Milwaukee. But Cowens was the hero in Game 7, scoring 28 points, as the Celtics brought the title back to Boston for the first time in five years. In 1976, the team won yet another championship, defeating the Phoenix Suns in 6 games. The Celtics advanced to the 1976 NBA Finals, which featured one of the greatest games in the history of the NBA. With the series tied at two games apiece, the Suns trailed early in the Boston Garden, but came back to force overtime. In double overtime, a Gar Heard turn-around jumper at the top of the key sent the game to an unprecedented third overtime, at which point the Celtics prevailed. Tommy Heinsohn coached the team for those two championships. After the 1976 championship and a playoff appearance in 1977, Boston went into another phase of rebuilding.
In the 1977 NBA Draft, the Celtics drafted a young forward from the UNC Charlotte named Cedric Maxwell. Maxwell did not contribute much in his rookie season, but he showed promise. Auerbach's job became even tougher following the 1977-78 in which they went 32-50 as John Havlicek, the Celtics All-Time leading scorer, retired after 16 seasons.
1979-1992: The Bird years
Thanks to a trade and their poor record in 1977-78, the Celtics owned two of the top eight picks in the 1978 NBA Draft. Since the Celtics had two draft choices, Auerbach took a risk and selected junior Larry Bird of Indiana State with the 6th pick, knowing that Bird would elect to remain in college for his senior year. The Celtics would retain his rights for one year, a rule that was later changed, and Auerbach believed that Bird's potential would make him worth the wait. Auerbach also felt that when the college season ended the Celtics would have a great chance to sign Bird. Auerbach was right and Bird signed soon after leading Indiana State to the NCAA Championship game, where they fell to a Michigan State University team that was led by Magic Johnson.
The other important story of the Celtics' 1978-79 season was the ongoing dispute between Auerbach and new owner John Y. Brown. The dispute nearly led Auerbach to resign as General Manager for a position with the New York Knicks. With public support strongly behind Auerbach, Brown elected to sell the team rather than face the wrath of the city for being the man who drove Red to a hated rival. During his short ownership, Brown orchestrated a trade for Bob McAdoo that Auerbach despised, and the team unraveled. The Celtics would struggle through the season, going 29-53 without Bird. Newcomers Chris Ford, Rick Robey, Cedric Maxwell and Tiny Archibald failed to reverse the team's momentum.
Bird would debut for the Celtics during the 1979-80 season, a year after his selection. With a new owner in place, Auerbach made a number of moves that would create a whole new dynasty. Auerbach traded the unhappy McAdoo, a former NBA scoring champion, to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for guard M.L. Carr, a defensive specialist, and two first-round picks in the 1980 NBA Draft. He also picked up point guard Gerald Henderson from the CBA. Carr, Archibald, Henderson and Ford would form a highly competent backcourt, with their unique skills blending in perfectly with the talented frontcourt of Cowens, Maxwell and Bird, who would go on to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors. The Celtics improved by 32 games, the best single-season turnaround in NBA history, going 61-21 and losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
After the season, Auerbach completed what may be the most lopsided trade in NBA history. Auerbach had always been a fan of stockpiling draft picks, so even after the success of 1979-80 the Celtics had both the 1st and 13th picks in the 1980 NBA Draft leftover from the M.L. Carr trade. Auerbach saw an opportunity to improve the team immediately, sending the two picks to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for center Robert Parish and the Warriors first round pick, the 3rd overall. With the draft pick, Auerbach selected University of Minnesota power forward Kevin McHale. With these three future Hall of Famers on the team the Celtics had a core in place to become a dominant team in the NBA.
The Celtics went 62-20 under coach Bill Fitch in 1980-81, despite losing center Dave Cowens to retirement late in training camp. Once again the Celtics matched up with the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics fell behind 3 games to 1 before coming back to win a classic 7th game, 91-90. The Celtics went on to capture the 1981 NBA Championship over the Houston Rockets, just two years after Bird had been drafted. Maxwell was named NBA Finals MVP.
In 1983-84 the Celtics would go 62-20 and finally get back to the NBA Finals after a three year hiatus. In the final, the Celtics came back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, winning their 15th championship. Bird renewed his college rivalry with Lakers star Magic Johnson during this series. After the series the Celtics traded Henderson, whose dramatic steal in game 2 altered the course of the series and gave the Celtics a chance, to the Seattle Supersonics in exchange for their first round pick in the 1986 NBA Draft.
In 1985, the Lakers and Celtics would meet again, but this time the Lakers would take the championship. During the following offseason the Celtics acquired Bill Walton from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Cedric Maxwell. Walton was a future Hall of Famer and had been a big star with the Portland Trailblazers, but injuries had kept him from living up to expectations. He was also a lifelong Celtics fan and willing to come off the bench, deferring to the three Hall of Famer big men already with the team. Walton would be a big part of the Celtics' success in 1986.
In 1985-86 the Celtics fielded one of the best teams in NBA history. The 1986 Celtics won 67 games, going 40-1 at their home, the Boston Garden. Bird won his third consecutive MVP award after having arguably his finest season, and Walton won the Sixth Man of the Year Award. They would win their 16th and last championship to date, easily defeating the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.
Thanks to the 1984 trade of Gerald Henderson and the subsequent fall of the Seattle Supersonics, at the end of the 1985-86 the Celtics owned not only the best team in the NBA but also the second pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. The Celtics drafted Len Bias with the pick and had high hopes for the young University of Maryland star. Fans believed Bias had superstar potential, and that he would be the perfect complement to the aging, but still strong, Celtics. The hope was that his presence would ensure that the franchise would remain a powerhouse after Bird, McHale and Parish retired. Unfortunately, Bias died 48 hours after he was drafted, after using cocaine at a party and overdosing. It would be the first in a long string of bad luck for the Celtics, and many fans believe the Celtics have never recovered from the loss of Bias.
Despite the loss of Bias, the Celtics remained competitive in 1986-87, going 59-23 and again winning the Eastern Conference Championship.
After the 1987-88 season, head coach K.C. Jones retired. Jones was replaced as head coach by assistant Jimmy Rodgers. Rodgers faced immediate trouble in 1988-89 when, only 6 games into the season, Larry Bird decided to have surgery to remove bone spurs in both feet. The injury was to sideline Bird until well after the All-Star Break, although supposedly he would be able to return. However, despite his best attempts to return he was unable to make it back as the Celtics stumbled to a 42-40 record and a first round playoff defeat to the Detroit Pistons.
Bird returned in 1989-90 to play in 75 games and lead the Celtics to a 52-30 record. In the playoffs, after winning the first two games of a Best of 5 series against the New York Knicks, the Celtics collapsed, losing 3 straight, including the decisive 5th game at the Boston Garden. In the wake of the embarrassing defeat, Rodgers was fired and replaced by assistant coach (and former Celtic player) Chris Ford.
Under Ford's leadership the Celtics improved to 56-26 in 1990-91, recapturing the Atlantic Division title even though Bird missed 22 games with a variety of injuries. In 1992, a late season rally allowed the Celtics to catch the New York Knicks and repeat as Atlantic Division champions. The team finished 51-31 and again matched up with the Indiana Pacers in the First Round, this time sweeping the series 3 games to 0. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals the Celtics lost a grueling 7 game series to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 4 games to 3. Due to back problems, Larry Bird played in only 45 of the 82 regular season games, and only 4 of the 10 playoff games.
1993-2001: Tragedy and decline
At the time of Bird's retirement former Celtics guard Chris Ford was the coach of the Celtics. 26-year old Reggie Lewis (out of Boston's Northeastern University) was seen as Bird's successor as the franchise player for the Celtics. Lewis, a small forward, fainted during a 1993 first round playoff matchup with the Charlotte Hornets. It was later revealed that Lewis had heart problems, yet he was able to get doctors to clear him for a comeback. He died of a heart attack after participating in a pickup basketball game during the offseason. The Celtics honored his memory during the following season by retiring his number 35.
In 1994, the Celtics hired former player M.L. Carr to be the team's new G.M. In his first draft in charge of the Celtics, he drafted University of North Carolina star Eric Montross with his first round draft pick. The Acie Earl era was already nearing an end, as Montross became the new heir apparent in the paint.
1994-95 was the Celtics final season in the Boston Garden. The Celtics signed the aging Dominique Wilkins as a free agent, and he led the team in scoring with 17.8 PPG. Second-year player Dino Radja, a power forward from Croatia, added an interior presence to the team that had been lacking in 1993-94. The Celtics made the playoffs, losing to the heavily favored Orlando Magic in 4 games.
In 1995, the Celtics moved from the Boston Garden into the Fleet Center (renamed the TD Banknorth Garden in 2005). Carr fired Chris Ford and took the coaching reins himself. After drafting Providence College star Eric Williams, the Celtics struggled to a 33-49 record. Things got worse in 1996-97 as the Celtics lost a franchise record 67 games, winning only 15 times despite the emergence of 1st-round draft pick Antoine Walker.
Carr stepped aside to another job in the organization when the Celtics convinced Rick Pitino to join the franchise as the team's president, front office manager, and head coach. Unfortunately for the franchise, Pitino was not the savior everyone expected him to be, although he acquired several talented young players during his tenure.
The Celtics received the third and sixth draft picks in the 1997 NBA Draft, and used the picks to select a brand new backcourt. They drafted Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer and dismantled much of the young team that lost 67 games the year before. David Wesley and Rick Fox were let go, and Williams was traded to the Denver Nuggets for a pair of second round draft picks.
The following year the Celtics drafted Paul Pierce in the 1998 NBA Draft, a college star who had been expected to be drafted much higher than the Celtics' tenth overall pick. Other notable players Pitino acquired were Walter McCarty and veteran Kenny Anderson, both for future Finals MVP Billups. Pitino failed to coach any successful teams and resigned in 2001.
2001-2006: Attempts to rebuild
Following the resignation of Rick Pitino, the Celtics improved greatly under coach Jim O'Brien. Paul Pierce matured into an NBA star and was ably complemented by Antoine Walker, along with the other role players acquired over the years. The team finished the season going 24-24 under O'Brien (after going 12-22 before Pitino's resignation) and following the 2000-01 season O'Brien was given the job of head coach on a permanent basis. As a result of numerous trades, the Celtics had three picks in the 2001 NBA Draft, a luxury that seemed to set the franchise up well for the long term. General Manager Chris Wallace used the picks on Joe Johnson, Joe Forte (a favorite of Red Auerbach) and Kedrick Brown.
The Celtics entered the 2001-02 season with low expectations. The team's success in the latter stages of 2000-01 was largely forgotten, and critics were surprised when the team, along with the New Jersey Nets, surged to the top of the Atlantic Division ahead of teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, who were fresh off a trip to the NBA Finals. The Celtics won a hard-fought five-game series with the 76ers in the first round, 3 games to 2. Pierce scored 46 points in the series-clinching blowout at the Fleet Center. In the Conference Semifinals, the Celtics defeated the favored Detroit Pistons 4 games to 1 in a series best remembered for the Celtics low-scoring Game 3 victory, which they won 66-64. In their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals since 1988, the Celtics would jump out to a 2-1 series lead over the New Jersey Nets, after rallying from 21 points down in the fourth quarter to win Game 3, but would lose the next three games to fall 4 games to 2.
In 2003, the Celtics were sold by owner Paul Gaston to Boston Basketball Partners LLC, led by H. Irving Grousbeck, Wycliffe Grousbeck, Steve Pagliuca, Robert Epstein, David Epstein, and John Svenson. The team made it back to the playoffs but were swept by the Nets in the second round, despite bringing Game 4 to double overtime.
Before their elimination, the team hired Danny Ainge to take over the front office, pushing Chris Wallace to another job in the organization. Ainge believed the team had reached its peak and promptly stunned the team by sending Antoine Walker to the Dallas Mavericks (along with Tony Delk). In return, the Celtics received the oft-injured Raef LaFrentz and a first-round draft pick in 2004.
The Celtics were a young team under new coach Doc Rivers, yet they seemed to have a core of good young players, led by rookie Al Jefferson, to go along with a selection of able veterans. The Celtics went 45-37 and won their first Atlantic Division title since 1991-92. The Pacers defeated them in the first round yet again, with the series culminating in an embarrassing 27-point loss in Game 7 at the Fleet Center.
The Boston Celtics continued to rebuild on the night of the 2006 NBA Draft. Danny Ainge traded the rights to seventh overall pick Randy Foye, Dan Dickau and Raef LaFrentz to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and a future second-round pick. A subsequent trade with the Philadelphia 76ers for Allen Iverson was reported as a potential move beneficial to each team, although such a trade never happened and Iverson was shipped to the Denver Nuggets in December. Orien Greene was waived, and the Celtics replaced him by trading a first-round pick in the 2007 NBA Draft to the Phoenix Suns for rookie Rajon Rondo. In the second round the Celtics added Leon Powe to the team, and later signed Villanova star Allan Ray as an undrafted free agent.
The 2006-07 season was a gloomy one for the franchise. The season began with the death of Red Auerbach at the age of 89. Auerbach was one of the few remaining people who had been a part of the NBA since its inception in 1946. The Celtics went 2-22 from late December 2006 through early February 2007 after losing Paul Pierce to injury, the result of a stress reaction in his left foot (he would later miss the latter part of March and all of April because of swelling in his left elbow). At first, the Celtics received a much needed boost from guard Tony Allen but he tore his ACL on a dunk attempt in a game vs. the Indiana Pacers on January 10, 2007. The Celtics recorded a record of 24-58, second-worst in the NBA, including a franchise record 18-game losing streak that lasted from January 5 to February 14. As the streak grew, some suggested that Pierce sit out the rest of the season to the let the young players such as Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Rajon Rondo and Delonte West get more experience.
2007-present: Back to relevance
- For details, see: 2007-08 Boston Celtics season
The Boston Celtics have a long-standing rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers, which is widely regarded as the league's greatest rivalry, as these two teams have faced each other 10 times in the NBA Finals, and won a combined 30 NBA championships. In the 1960s, the Celtics faced and defeated the Lakers six times in the NBA Finals, despite the efforts of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. The rivalry was renewed in the 1980s, when the Lakers and Celtics won 8 of the 9 NBA Championships awarded from 1980-1988 (the Lakers won 5 while the Celtics won 3), and played each other in the NBA Finals on 3 occasions. The rivalry cooled off as the Celtics slipped into mediocrity in the mid and late-90s.
In the Eastern Conference, the Celtics long-standing rivals have been the Philadelphia 76ers, led by Wilt Chamberlain in the 1960s, and by Julius Erving and Moses Malone in the 1970s and 1980s. The Celtics-Sixers rivalry in the 1980s was marked by intense personal confrontations between Larry Bird and Julius Erving. Their most recent playoff rivalry came in the '02 First Round, as then-Sixer Allen Iverson and Paul Pierce, both prolific scorers of their time, went head-to-head.
Another fierce rivalry formed in the 1980s between the Celtics and the Detroit Pistons. The two franchises met in the playoffs 5 times between 1985 and 1991, and more than once there was a physical confrontation between a Celtic and Detroit's Bill Laimbeer. The rivalry, like their rivalry with the Lakers, cooled in the 1990s as the Celtics slid into a long decline, although there was a renewal of interest when both teams met in the '02 Eastern Semifinals.
Boston's other fierce rivals included the Atlanta Hawks (dating back to the late 1950's, which resurfaced during the rivalry of Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins), Milwaukee Bucks (during the mid-1980's), Indiana Pacers (1991-92 and 2003-05; both involved Larry Bird as a player and as an executive), New York Knicks (both were original NBA franchises, and have never moved to another city nor changed its nickname), and New Jersey Nets (2002 and 2003). In addition, the San Antonio Spurs have provided a tough challenge for Boston, especially since adding Tim Duncan with the number one pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. Since then, the Spurs racked up 18 straight wins against Boston before the streak was broken on St. Patrick's Day 2007, concomitantly ending a 17-year, 15-game drought in San Antonio.
Individually, Paul Pierce has been developing rivalries on the court with LeBron James and Ron Artest. During games between the Celtics and the Cavaliers, Pierce and James often combine explosive scoring with defensive intensity.
- Boston Arena (1946), site of the first Celtics game and where the parquet floor was originally installed. Served as a secondary venue during the franchise's early years. Now known as Northeastern University's Matthews Arena.
- Boston Garden (1946-1995)
- Hartford Civic Center (1975-1995), occasionally used for home games.
- TD Banknorth Garden (1995-present), formerly known as Fleet Center (1995-2005).
Current depth chart
|Boston Celtics Head Coaches|
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