All-time Greatest Celtics

ivanvamp

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Jul 18, 2005
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Rummaging around Youtube today and saw this:
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF0Pe2fFDsU
 
Fun (and funny) discussion about the all-time greatest Celtics.  Just so many to choose from, and we'd all have our own criteria.  For example, Pete Maravich was an all-time great player, but only played part of one season for Boston, so he wasn't an all-time great Celtic.  Tiny Archibald is a hall of famer, but he only played 5 seasons with the Celtics, so was he an all-time great Celtic?  Reggie Lewis would have been an all-time great (McHale says so in that clip), but obviously his death prematurely ended what would have been a stellar career.  
 
From my admittedly limited knowledge (I never saw the great Celtic players in the 60's and early 70's play), here are my lists:
 
Top 10, regardless of position (don't kill me for the order):
1.  Russell
2.  Bird
3.  Havlicek
4.  Sam Jones
5.  Cowens
6.  Cousy
7.  Heinsohn
8.  McHale
9.  Parish
10. Pierce
 
Now, top 12 players, with roster considerations in mind:
 
Starters
PG - Cousy
SG - S. Jones
SF - Bird
PF - McHale
C - Russell
 
Reserves
G - Sharman, Archibald
F - Heinsohn, Havlicek, Pierce
C - Cowens, Parish
 
Close but no cigar:  KC Jones, Dennis Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Frank Ramsey, Reggie Lewis
 

Devizier

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I'd move Pierce, McHale, and Parish to four-five-six on that list, and swap Tommy out for Bill Sharman, but otherwise, yeah.
 

ivanvamp

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Jul 18, 2005
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Oh, nit-pick away!  That's kind of what threads like this are all about.  
 
And to be honest, I completely forgot about White.
 

mandro ramtinez

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If Lewis had lived and played a full career, Pierce would still be ahead of him on the all-time list.  Lewis was basically the alpha scorer on the C's starting in the 90-91 season and he never scored more than 20.8 ppg.  Pierce never averaged less than 21.3 ppg from the 00-01 season through 06-07 and was one of the best scorers in the NBA during his prime.  Pierce's accomplishments after 06-07 would arugably put him over Lewis on their own but when you add in the first half of his career, it's not even close.  Lewis was 27 when he died and had probably reached what would be his peak.
 

4 6 3 DP

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Russell
Bird
Havlicek
McHale
Cousy
Pierce
Cowens
Parish
 
I struggle after that.
 
I prefer the "All time Celtic stiff backup caucasian center" list with dignetaries like Stojko Vrankovic, Brad Lohaus, Marc Acre, Greg Kite, et al. Would like to put Rick Robey on the list but the fact he was worth DJ means he simply isn't in line with the guys above (though Lohaus was half of worth Danny Ainge)
 

Granite Sox

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ivanvamp said:
Oh, nit-pick away!  That's kind of what threads like this are all about.  
 
And to be honest, I completely forgot about White.
 
Yeah... I loved Tiny when he was with the Celts, but JoJo gets the nod in my eyes.  
 
Tiny's in that same category as DJ, Walton and KG... the Celts were like finishing school.
 
Nice job with the rest of your list/roster!  Hard to imagine any other roster (even the Lakers) having depth like this.  I mean, Conner Henry, Tub Bradley, Marty Conlan and Acie Earl all say hello!
 

Kliq

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Here is an ambitious crack at the top 20.
 
1. Russell
2. Bird
3. Havliecek
4. Cousy
5. Pierce
6. Cowens
7. McHale
8. Sam Jones
9. Bill Sharman
10. Parish
11. Garnett
12. Heinsohn
13. Satch Sanders
14. DJ
15. Frank Ramsey
16. JoJo White
17. Ray Allen
18. Bailey Howell
19. KC Jones
20. Easy Ed
 
That is 20 Hall of Fame and future Hall of Fame players, btw. Also, the greatest Celtic of all time is technically Red.
 

BostonFan23

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Barkley has always had a ton of respect for the Celtics, but has continually criminally underrated Paul Pierce.
 

bankshot1

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4 6 3 DP said:
Russell
Bird
Havlicek
McHale
Cousy
Pierce
Cowens
Parish
 
I struggle after that.
 
I prefer the "All time Celtic stiff backup caucasian center" list with dignetaries like Stojko Vrankovic, Brad Lohaus, Marc Acre, Greg Kite, et al. Would like to put Rick Robey on the list but the fact he was worth DJ means he simply isn't in line with the guys above (though Lohaus was half of worth Danny Ainge)
Hank Finkel wants your e-mail address
 

BostonFan23

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1. Russell
2. Bird
3. Hondo
4. Pierce
5. McHale
6. Cousy
7. Cowens
8. Jones
9. Parish
10. Heinson
 
Combination of legacy and skills.
 

E5 Yaz

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4 6 3 DP said:
I prefer the "All time Celtic stiff backup caucasian center" list with dignetaries like Stojko Vrankovic, Brad Lohaus, Marc Acre, Greg Kite, et al. Would like to put Rick Robey on the list but the fact he was worth DJ means he simply isn't in line with the guys above (though Lohaus was half of worth Danny Ainge)
 
The top three would be Finkel, Fernsten and Kite
 

4 6 3 DP

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You can tell I'm mid 30's and Finkel and Fernsten are slightly too old for me.
 

worm0082

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4 6 3 DP said:
 
I prefer the "All time Celtic stiff backup caucasian center" list with dignetaries like Stojko Vrankovic, Brad Lohaus, Marc Acre, Greg Kite, et al. Would like to put Rick Robey on the list but the fact he was worth DJ means he simply isn't in line with the guys above (though Lohaus was half of worth Danny Ainge)
Always love a reason to post these:
 
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9roop_brett-szabo_sport
 
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xan88u_conlon-marty_sport
 

bankshot1

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I don't know where Reggie Lewis would have ranked if..., but the tragedy of his untimely passing and Bias's death and the what might have been for Celtic and basketball fans is a question that sadly will never be answered.  
 
And IMO Cowens, who was a Celtic rookie about 45 years ago, and who played between the two more renowned dynastic championship teams, and sometimes gets lost between dynasties, was an extraordinary player.
 

Al Zarilla

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jose melendez

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Russell
Bird
Havlicek
McHale
Cousy
Pierce
Cowens
Parish

I struggle after that.

I prefer the "All time Celtic stiff backup caucasian center" list with dignetaries like Stojko Vrankovic, Brad Lohaus, Marc Acre, Greg Kite, et al. Would like to put Rick Robey on the list but the fact he was worth DJ means he simply isn't in line with the guys above (though Lohaus was half of worth Danny Ainge)
Brett Szabo would like a word. Ab

Edit. Already menti on ed
 

Eddie Jurak

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Best Celtics, post 1980-1981 edition (to avoid players I never really saw):

C Parish, Horford
PF McHale, Garnett
SF Bird, Tatum
SG Pierce, Brown, Lewis
PG Johnson, Rondo, Smart

Toughest omissions: Allen, Walker, Maxwell, Ainge
 

Ale Xander

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I'd put in Ainge (or Allen) in for Lewis for another 3PT threat. Also Pierce is much more a forward than a guard.

Better to have Point/Wing/Post perhaps

Point: DJ, Rondo, Smart
Wings: Bird, Tatum, Pierce, Brown, Ainge/Allen/Lewis
Post: Parish, Mchale, Garnett, Horford/Maxwell
 

Eddie Jurak

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I'd put in Ainge (or Allen) in for Lewis for another 3PT threat. Also Pierce is much more a forward than a guard.

Better to have Point/Wing/Post perhaps

Point: DJ, Rondo, Smart
Wings: Bird, Tatum, Pierce, Brown, Ainge/Allen/Lewis
Post: Parish, Mchale, Garnett, Horford/Maxwell
He is, but as a top 4 post 1980 Celtic, he has to be in the starting lineup. :)
 

J.T. Pinch

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Paul Silas was an integral part of the the '72-'76 Celtics . Winning two titles in Boston and one more later in Seattle, "Tall Paul" averaged 20 pts. and 20 rebounds per game
at Creighton.( Russell, Dr. J, Kermit Washington and Artis Gilmore are the only four other guys to achieve that feat.) Cowens told Auerbach he was making a mistake letting
him go at the time. The result of his departure ushered in the lamentable Wicks and Rowe era.

Too bad Paul Westfall didn't play his entire career in Boston, perhaps his 44 would be amongst those others hanging from the rafters today.
 

Jimbodandy

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I have to admit, this is an entirely new take to me. I've never heard anything other than Cowens being a country mile better.
Seems an unpopular one too. I'm thinking that perhaps I'm weighing rings a little more than most people. Also heard loads of stories from dad about Tommy as a kid. He provided loads of scoring that those early Celtics champions needed back then, especially before Havlicek showed up and became Havlicek. Dad loved Cowens too, so I got a bunch of those stories as well. I'm ok with being in the minority--and perhaps wrong--about this. Tommy actually had more 2nd team All NBA nods per BBRef (4 to 3), but Cowens got more MVP votes and won one. Both won RoY, the former in Russell's abbreviated first year.

Not old enough to have seen Tommy obviously, but really only caught the last year or two of Cowens and was too young to appreciate much of what was going on.
 

m0ckduck

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I have a hard time putting Cowens into proper perspective (he was slightly before my time). I know that he was league MVP in '73, a ferocious competitor and rebounder, played his ass off against Kareem, and was the best or second-best player on two title teams. I forget that he had three top-4 MVP finishes even after the year he won MVP, which really confirms that he was one of the handful of best players of his era. On the other hand, it was kind of a weird time for MVP voting, a period when the ABA had siphoned off some talent and they probably should have just given the award to Kareem every year other than 1975 (McAdoo).

And, then, there's the longevity issue. From what I read, Cowens' singular intensity caused him to burn out early, emotionally and physically, and retire after 10 seasons with the C's at the age of 31. He's an extreme example of how much change there's been in the duration of players' careers .When I was growing up, there was the perception that guys like Havlicek and Elvin Hayes had played FOREVER... and, yet, now both rank in the 20s all-time for games played behind guys like Jamal Crawford.
Hayes at #22 is the highest ranking player on the list whose career ended before the late 80s (somewhat arbitrary cut-off to include Kareem).

In sum, Cowens is a hard career to compare next to Celtics like McHale and Pierce who played longer in a more stacked league but never reached the same heights.
 

lexrageorge

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I have a hard time putting Cowens into proper perspective (he was slightly before my time). I know that he was league MVP in '73, a ferocious competitor and rebounder, played his ass off against Kareem, and was the best or second-best player on two title teams. I forget that he had three top-4 MVP finishes even after the year he won MVP, which really confirms that he was one of the handful of best players of his era. On the other hand, it was kind of a weird time for MVP voting, a period when the ABA had siphoned off some talent and they probably should have just given the award to Kareem every year other than 1975 (McAdoo).
Cowens won the 1973 MVP for a couple of reasons: the Celtics won 68 games, tied for 2nd all time with the 1967 Philly 76'ers and one behind the 1972 Lakers. And Cowens was a huge force behind that team. Then there was the fact that Tiny Archibald had a season for the ages, his 34.0 ppg being 12th all time (since dropped to 17th), but tied for 5th all time (again at the time) once you remove Wilt. The split probably hurt Kareem more than Cowens. Also, only Russell and Wilt had won 3 MVP's in a row up until that time, and so voters probably had some bias against awarding the same honors to Kareem.

Don't get me wrong: Cowens was considered one of the league's top players during that 1972-76 period. But his MVP was partially due to happenstance as well.

And, then, there's the longevity issue. From what I read, Cowens' singular intensity caused him to burn out early, emotionally and physically, and retire after 10 seasons with the C's at the age of 31. He's an extreme example of how much change there's been in the duration of players' careers .When I was growing up, there was the perception that guys like Havlicek and Elvin Hayes had played FOREVER... and, yet, now both rank in the 20s all-time for games played behind guys like Jamal Crawford.
Hayes at #22 is the highest ranking player on the list whose career ended before the late 80s (somewhat arbitrary cut-off to include Kareem).

In sum, Cowens is a hard career to compare next to Celtics like McHale and Pierce who played longer in a more stacked league but never reached the same heights.
Peak years matter, and the fact is that the Celtics would not have won those 2 banners in the 1970's without him. He probably was overall a greater contributor than Heinsohn as a player, but it was probably close. Hard part is that there are quite a few players that bunch up, with probably 25 or so rightfully laying claim to spots 10-20.
 

snowmanny

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I remember Cowens started getting momentum as the MVP in March or so. The Celtics finished 24-2 and he was awesome. I don’t think anyone thought he was better than Kareem, but being a dominating player on a historically dominating team can get you the MVP. Kareem won in 1976 when he was a dominating player on a boring crap team and received 52 of 185 first place votes. Meanwhile Dr J was lighting up the ABA. Kareem should have no complaints.
 

bankshot1

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If I'd seen both of them play, I'd probably be grateful to still be on the right side of the grass.
You got a point.

But having seen both play there is no confusing that Cowens was a better offensive player, defensive player and better passer than Heinsohn (who never saw a shot he didn't take) and brought an amazing amount of energy and intensity and played at full volume. There's a reason Cowens is a member of the NBA 75th anniversary team member. He was an all-time great. Cowens was a force of nature and generally battled and prevailed against bigger centers. His drive was unreal. I think Cowens and the 70s Celts get lost between the Russell and Bird teams, and maybe the Bruins, and never really got the acclaim they deserved.
 
Last edited:

Eric Fernsten's Disco Mustache

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I just started following the team for real as a kid at the end of Cowen's Boston days. Memories from that long ago can fool you, but mine is that he was somewhere in the neighborhood of what Marcus Smart would have been like as a 6'9" low-post player. Both the chaotic good and the chaotic bad.

I remember there was one season (I think '77?) when my Dad and I started to track every game that Cowens led both teams in both rebounds in personal fouls. And any game he ended with >20 rebounds and 5 fouls-- which was every few weeks or so-- we got an extra french fries the next time we went to McDonalds
 

bankshot1

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I just started following the team for real as a kid at the end of Cowen's Boston days. Memories from that long ago can fool you, but mine is that he was somewhere in the neighborhood of what Marcus Smart would have been like as a 6'9" low-post player. Both the chaotic good and the chaotic bad.

I remember there was one season (I think '77?) when my Dad and I started to track every game that Cowens led both teams in both rebounds in personal fouls. And any game he ended with >20 rebounds and 5 fouls-- which was every few weeks or so-- we got an extra french fries the next time we went to McDonalds
I'm going to have to disagree with the Marcus comp, Cowens was a legit but physical 2-way player. Marcus was a physical 1-way guy. But Cowens had to be physical going against bigger guys in the low-post, Wilt, KAJ, Lanier, Malone, Gilmore, Walton. There was a lot of center talent back then. He was an amazing player and its unfortunate you didn't see peak Cowens the guy would out hustle everyone on the court. I real think he and his teams got lost between the Russell and Bird teams.
 

Eric Fernsten's Disco Mustache

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Cowens the guy would out hustle everyone on the court
Yeah, this was what I was attempting to get at with the Smart comparison


I'm going to have to disagree with the Marcus comp, Cowens was a legit but physical 2-way player. Marcus was a physical 1-way guy
Well, this might surface that we disagree more about Smart than about Cowens, but no need to (re?)open that can of worms in this thread



its unfortunate you didn't see peak Cowens
Couldn't agree more.

The older I get the more I wish I'd seen.

But then I go to bed so early now...
 

bankshot1

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Yeah, this was what I was attempting to get at with the Smart comparison




Well, this might surface that we disagree more about Smart than about Cowens, but no need to (re?)open that can of worms in this thread





Couldn't agree more.

The older I get the more I wish I'd seen.

But then I go to bed so early now...
and soon you'll be waking up every two hours... :)
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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I'm going to have to disagree with the Marcus comp, Cowens was a legit but physical 2-way player. Marcus was a physical 1-way guy. But Cowens had to be physical going against bigger guys in the low-post, Wilt, KAJ, Lanier, Malone, Gilmore, Walton. There was a lot of center talent back then. He was an amazing player and its unfortunate you didn't see peak Cowens the guy would out hustle everyone on the court. I real think he and his teams got lost between the Russell and Bird teams.
Yeah Cowens was a complete player. Not only - as you point out - was Cowens strong enough to deal with 7' centers but on the other hand, he had a sweeeeet jump shot up to the top of the key plus he could really pass the ball for a big man. Not flashy like some guys but my memory says that he was super effective getting the ball in the high post and that was important to drag the centers out of the lane.

I got hooked on BOS from those teams. Cowens and Silas were joys to watch especially since they seemed to young WBCD smaller and less athletic than a lot of guys they played against.