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NBA: Boston Celtics' greatest starting five

Yash Matange

With the NBA Draft and action from the NBA Summer League’s done and dusted, the NBA has reached a lull in action. With the off-season in full flow, the league fans across the world have been left with not much to cheer for other than the fact that point guard Derrick Rose is 100% fit and healthy for the coming NBA season, as he is currently practising with the USA National Basketball Team for the upcoming FIBA World Cup in Spain.So to spice the off-season a tad, in a series of articles we will look at the greatest starting line-ups of the 5 most successful NBA franchises ever.First up are the Boston Celtics, the team with most NBA Championships and most jersey numbers retired and most Hall of Famers. The C’s lead the league with 17 NBA titles won, just one ahead of their nemesis and arch rivals Los Angeles Lakers. So here is how the list of the greatest ever starting line-up for the Celtics would look:

#1 Point Guard: Bob Cousy

The only other players who come close to having a shot at the position for point guard are Dennis Johnson and Rajon Rondo. While Johnson is not as accomplished as Cousy, Rondo has yet to prove the full extent of his greatness – he has played just 8 years of what could be an illustrious career ahead, and therefore it is too early to put him ahead of Cousy.

Before legendary 11-time NBA Champion Bill Russell established his dominance with the Celtics, it was Cousy who brought the title to Boston in 1957 when Russell was only in his rookie season. 1957 was one of the best years Cousy had in his playing career, in which he also earned his first NBA league MVP title and was named the All-Star Game MVP for the second time in his career.

Prior to making a mark in the NBA with his five titles, Cousy had also won an NCAA Championship with his college Holy Cross. His number 14 jersey has been retired by the C’s and hangs in the rafters among many others in the TD Garden, Celtics home court.

Cousy was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1971 and is also known as the first great point guard of the league, winning the assist crown eight out of first 11 seasons of the league.

#2 Shooting Guard: John Havlicek

The leading scorer in Celtics’ franchise history with 26,395 points and third all-time in terms of NBA titles behind Russell and Sam Jones with eight championships, John Havlicek easily seals the shooting guard spot ahead of Ray Allen, who is the only competition.

After being drafted 7th overall in the NBA Draft of 1962, Havlicek embarked on a 16-year career with the franchise during the course of which he made it to 11 All-NBA teams, 8 All-NBA Defensive teams and the All-NBA Rookie first team. He was also a 13-time All-Star.

Nicknamed the “Hondo”, Havlicek was named the Finals MVP en route to capturing the sixth NBA title of his career in 1974. The C’s wasted no time in retiring his #17 jersey after he decided to call it quits from the game of basketball in 1978. Six years later, Havlicek was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

#3 Small Forward: Paul Pierce

Ideally Larry Bird would occupy the Small Forward position, but given the versatility he possesses with his height, he could be pushed to the Power Forward position to make space for Paul Pierce, the heart and soul of the franchise through the first decade of the new millennium.

Pierce played the first 15 years of his career for the C’s after being drafted 10th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. His name is mentioned in the same breath as Havlicek and Bird, the three of them being the only players to score more than 20,000 points as a Celtic.

Pierce won his lone NBA championship in 2008 while also being named the Finals MVP after leading his team to their first championship in 21 years. With the 2008 NBA title, the Celtics registered the best single season turnaround led by the Big Three of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Being a 10-time All-Star and the 2010 All-Star Three Point Shooting Champion, and having his name in the 1999 All-NBA Rookie First team are the other career highlights of “The Truth”, a nickname given to Pierce by Shaquille O’Neal in 2001.

#4 Power Forward: Larry Bird

Larry Bird along with Magic Johnson brought the NBA back to the television sets across America not only because of their personal rivalry which dated back to their college days, but also the rivalry that their teams the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers shared.

With the accolades and awards he has been given over the years, Bird is one of the most celebrated players in the history of the NBA. He is the only personality to have been named the NBA Rookie of the Year (1980), NBA League MVP (1984-86), NBA Finals MVP (1984, 1986), NBA Coach of the Year (1998) and NBA Executive of the Year (2012) across the timeline of his career in the league.

A 3-time NBA Champion (1981, 1984 and 1986), 12-time All-Star, 10 selections to the All-NBA teams, 3-time NBA All-Star Three Point Shooting Champion (1986-88), an All-Star Game MVP Award in 1982 and two entries (in 1987, 88) into the illustrious 50-40-90 club are a summary of the career highlights of the great Larry Bird.

Apart from his NBA achievements, Bird was a co-captain and member of the first Dream Team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Beating McHale to the Greatest Celtics Starting 5, Bird’s #33 jersey was retired to the rafters by the Celtics following his announcement. He was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

#5 Center: Bill Russell

Bill Russell is winning personified.

No doubt the greates Celtic ever, Russell has the most NBA championships of all time with 11, which include two titles as a Head Coach of the C’s, not to mention two NCAA titles and an Olympic Gold Medal.

If not for Michael Jordan, Russell would be the greatest ever NBA player. But having said that, he does have the Finals MVP award named after him. Russell is one among a total of only three players to be named in all three teams i.e, the NBA 25th Anniversary team, the NBA 35th Anniversary team and the NBA 50th Anniversary team.

Russell was a 12-time NBA All-Star and was selected to 11 All-NBA teams. He was named the NBA League MVP five times in his career (1958, 1961-63, 1965) and the All-Star Game MVP in 1963.

Three years after his retirement, Russell’s #6 jersey was held high amongst the rafters of the home court arena of the C’s. He is also an inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was also enrished into the FIBA Hall of Fame.

Edited by Staff Editor

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