The Boston Celtics are the most prolific team in NBA history, so creating an all-time roster is no easy feat. The Celtics have won 17 championships across generations, retiring 23 jerseys along the way. A roster based around the greatest Celtics to ever play would undoubtedly be one of the greatest ever assembled.
All-Time Roster for the Boston Celtics
Point Guard: Bob Cousy
Bob Cousy was an integral part of the original Celtics dynasty. During his time in Boston, he racked up six titles to go along with 13 All-Star appearances, 12 All-NBA selections, eight assist titles, and an NBA MVP trophy to top it all off. His number 14 jersey hangs in the rafters for good reason.
Cousy was a true point guard in every sense of the term. However, many attribute the phrase with a lack of scoring ability; the opposite is true for Cousy. On top of averaging 7.5 assists per game for his career, he also notched 18.4 points per contest. His pairing with Bill Russell in the ’60s proved to dominate the league like no other dynasty ever has.
Shooting Guard: John Havlicek
One of the greatest to ever play the shooting guard position, John Havlicek has a list of accomplishments nearly unrivaled in NBA history. In his 16 seasons, Havlicek earned eight championship rings, 13 All-Star appearances, 11 All-NBA selections, eight All-Defensive selections, and even brought home a Finals MVP award along the way.
The late legend averaged a stellar 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game from 1962-78. In that span, Havlicek enjoyed the success of the Bill Russell dynasty while also bridging the gap afterward and creating a contending Celtics team himself in the mid-’70s.
No Celtic will ever wear the number 17 again thanks to Havlicek’s enormous impact on the franchise.
Small Forward: Larry Bird
One of two absolute no-brainers on the list, Larry Bird is not just one of the greatest Celtics of all-time, but one of the greatest to ever pick up a basketball. Bird was the ultimate hustle player, emphasizing defense over offense, though he had no trouble getting the ball in the hoop. He won three consecutive MVP trophies from 1983-86, a feat no one has achieved since. In fact, only Bill Russell (1960-63) and Wilt Chamberlain (1965-68) notched a three-peat as league MVP.
Bird also matched his MVP total in NBA titles. He led the Celtics back to glory, winning three championships in five tries. He brought home the Finals MVP trophy in two of those bouts, 1984 and 1986. With the help of his bitter rival and great friend Magic Johnson, the duo brought a new fire to the NBA world, bringing it into the modern age.
Number 33 will never be worn again for the Boston Celtics for good reason. Bird is one of the two the greatest players to ever don the green and white, and will always be remembered as an NBA legend.
Power Forward: Kevin Garnett
Anything is possible. Kevin Garnett is not only one of the best players to ever put on a Celtics uniform but is also one of the most important. He was one of the key pieces that brought the greatest franchise in the NBA back to glory.
Garnett was acquired via trade prior to the 2007-08 season, creating a “superteam” triumvirate of Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. The trio went on to win the NBA title that season and fell just short of a second title in 2010. Though all the success is not directly due to Garnett, his contribution to the franchise will never be forgotten.
The former MVP sacrificed personal stats and honors to be a part of something bigger. He helped bring Boston a title for the first time in over 20 years.
During his time with the Celtics, Garnett averaged 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Regarded as one of the greatest power forwards of all-time, Garnett was a 15-time All-Star, a 12-time All-Defensive Team member, a nine-time All-NBA player, an MVP, and a Defensive Player of the Year. Above all, though, he was a champion.
Center: Bill Russell
No player in NBA history can touch the resume of Bill Russell. He has a legitimate argument as the greatest player of all-time, let alone the greatest Celtic.
Russell won 11 titles in just 13 years in the league, with just one loss in the NBA Finals. No player in the history of the game has more championships. He served as a player-coach in his latter years and remained one of the greatest in the league. He played in an era without a Finals MVP award (which now dons his name), leaving 10 potential holes in his nearly flawless list of accolades. Russell averaged 15 points and 23 rebounds per game in his career before blocks and steals became official stats.
In his 13 seasons, Russell earned 12 All-Star nods, made 11 All-NBA teams, and won five MVP trophies. His number 6 jersey will hang in the rafters at the T.D. Garden forever, and his bust sits in the Hall of Fame.
Russell was not just a dominating force on the court, but a Civil Rights activist off the court as well. His legend is so much bigger than basketball. He isn’t just regarded as an NBA legend, but an iconic hero in all of sports history.
Point Guard: Sam Jones
Technically, the great Sam Jones was a two-guard, but for this list, he will back up Cousy at the point guard spot. Jones would crack the starting lineup for most franchises, but the Celtics are absolutely stacked with all-time talent.
Jones has a special spot in NBA history, as he has the second-most titles of any player to ever lace them up. However, he was far from the best player on any of his 10 title teams (thanks to Bill Russell). Nevertheless, Jones had a huge impact on the Celtics dynasty of the 1960s as well as the NBA as a whole. For his career, he averaged 18 points and 5 rebounds per game, racking up five All-Star appearances and three All-NBA selections in his illustrious career.
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen
This selection will come with plenty of criticism. Ray Allen was not held in high regard by Celtics fans at the end of his career after he departed Boston to join the Miami Heat prior to the 2012-13 season. He then hit one of the greatest* shots in NBA history with the Heat to help bring them an NBA title.
However, it is impossible to deny how great Allen was for the Celtics. Prior to the ascendence of Stephen Curry, Allen was undoubtedly the greatest shooter in NBA history. He still holds the record for the most made three-pointers in league history, and will until Curry eventually breaks it. He was a huge part of the 2008 championship team in Boston and would fit perfectly on nearly any roster in history.
Like him or not, Allen earned this spot on the team.
*the shot wasn’t that “great” for fans of the San Antonio Spurs or haters of the “Big Three” Heat.
Small Forward: Paul Pierce
“The Truth” is one of the best to ever suit up for the Celtics. If not for Larry Bird, Paul Pierce would easily be the greatest small forward to ever play for Boston.
Pierce was a bright spot in a dismal era for the Celtics leading up to the 2007-08 season. Once he got a stellar supporting cast, though, the Celtics shot to the top of the NBA virtually overnight. The 2008 Boston Celtics were champions in large part because of Pierce and his leadership. He earned the Finals MVP in 2008 after posting a stat line of 22 points, 6 assists and 4 boards per game. The Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in six games to earn their first title in decades, and Pierce became a Celtic legend.
Interestingly enough, for his career in Boston Pierce averaged nearly the exact stat line he posted in his lone Finals victory. His number is already hanging in the TD Garden rafters, as it should be.
Power Forward: Kevin McHale
Kevin McHale was a huge part of the resurgence of Boston Celtic basketball in the 1980s. He was Larry Bird’s partner-in-crime and helped the Celtics to hoist three more titles to add to their NBA-leading tally.
Averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks per game for his career, McHale had no shortage of personal accolades during his time with the Celtics. Along with his three titles, he was selected to seven All-Star games, one All-NBA team, and six All-Defensive teams. He also won Sixth Man of the Year twice.
As the general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, McHale infamously helped the Celtics win their 17th title when he and Danny Ainge orchestrated the trade that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston prior to their 2008 championship run. Once a Celtic, always a Celtic?
Center: Robert Parish
Robert Parish is another legend that gets lost in the long line of Celtics greats. When a player’s competition is Bill Russell, though, nearly any player would come up short of a starting all-time spot.
While with the Celtics, Parish hoisted three Larry O’Brien trophies while notching nine All-Star appearances and two All-NBA selections as well. Along with Bird and McHale, Parish rounded out one of the original “Big Threes” in NBA history, and the trio won one title for each star player on the squad.
Parish averaged 17 points and 10 boards per game during his time in Boston and got his famous 00 jersey retired in the process.
Coach: Red Auerbach
Whether on the whistle or behind the scenes, Red Auerbach is one of the true NBA greats. He was a part of 16 of the 17 banners hanging in the TD Garden, and will forever be a Boston Celtic legend.
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