The Boston Celtics are an American professional basketball team based in Boston, Massachusetts, playing in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The team is owned by Wycliffe Grousbeck and coached by Doc Rivers, with Danny Ainge as the general manager. Founded in 1946, their 17 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 1950s through the mid 1980s. After the death of their top draft pick Len Bias, just two days after the 1986 NBA Draft, the team fell into a steady decline, only making the playoffs four times from 1996 to 2007. The franchise has recently returned to prominence with the acquisition of power forward Kevin Garnett and shooting guard Ray Allen during the 2007 off-season. On June 17, 2008, the Boston Celtics won their 17th championship, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 in the 2008 NBA Finals.
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 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 delayed joining until the middle of the 1957 season in order to play for the U.S. Olympic Team, had an immediate impact.
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.
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.
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 debuted 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 bring the team back to prominence. 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 formed 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, which at the time was 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 left over 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 met again, but this time the Lakers took the championship. During the following offseason the Celtics acquired Bill Walton from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Cedric Maxwell. Walton was a big star with the Portland Trail Blazers, 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 big men already with the team. Walton was 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 won their 16th championship and last of the 20th century, 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.
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.
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.
The 2008 NBA Playoffs, however, were bumpier than many believed they should be. Their First Round series was against the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. At home, the Celtics were dominant: their lowest home margin of victory against the Hawks in the playoffs was 19, in Game 2. However, the Hawks were able to beat the Celtics in Atlanta. The series went seven games, with the home team winning each game.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics faced Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and the Detroit Pistons. In Game 2, the Celtics finally lost at home, and rumors began to fly that the Celtics had gotten too tired from consecutive seven-game series to pull off a title, especially with the Pistons having taken their first two series in six and five games, respectively. But the Celtics bounced back to win Game 3 on the road in Detroit. The series continued, and the Celtics took down the Pistons in six games, winning the deciding game on the road.
The 2008 NBA Finals were contested with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and a Los Angeles Lakers team in the middle of a dominant playoff run. They swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round, took the Utah Jazz in the second round in six games, and extinguished the repeat hopes of the defending-champion San Antonio Spurs in five games in the Western Conference Finals.
The first few games of the series started with the Celtics once again dominating at the TD Banknorth Garden, the Celtics home turf. Game 1 saw Paul Pierce come back after suffering a knee injury earlier in the game, and taking over the game for a 98–88 Celtics win. But in Game 2, Boston nearly lost a 24-point lead, ultimately winning, 108–102. When the Lakers returned to Staples Center and won Game 3, 87–81, then took a 24-point lead in the second quarter of Game 4, some believed momentum in the series had shifted the Lakers' way.
However, the Celtics did not give up. Led by a bench that outscored the Lakers bench by 20 points, they fought back. The Celtics locked up their defense and took over Game 4 with a crushing 97–91 victory, the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history. Although the Lakers took Game 5, 103–98, the series went back to Boston for Game 6, and the Celtics finished it off with a dominating 131–92 victory, the most lopsided win in a Finals game since the Chicago Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz by 42 points, and the largest margin of victory all-time in a deciding game. The "Boston Three Party", as Garnett, Allen and NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce became known, had finally brought a 17th banner to Boston, the first new banner for the new Garden and the first such win in 22 years.
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 the teams met in the 2002 East Semifinals, and later in the 2008 East Finals.
Boston's other fierce rivals included the Atlanta Hawks (dating back to the late 1950s, which resurfaced during the rivalry of Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins, and later in 2008), Milwaukee Bucks (during the mid-1980s), 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 Celtics head coaches|
The Boston Celtics released a new logo for the 1995–96 season, although the depiction of a leprechaun spinning a basketball has been in use since the early 1950s. The logo was originally designed by Zang Auerbach, the brother of Celtics head coach Red Auerbach. The logo has received numerous tweaks over the years; the latest version decorated the leprechaun in a gold vest to celebrate the club's 50th anniversary.
The most familiar version, however, is the one-colored logo used during the Larry Bird era, with the leprechaun traced in black and only green and white clothes, which is still used on some TV networks whenever the current Celtics logo is unavailable or in classic Celtics references. The Celtics also have various alternative logos, with the most popular being a white shamrock with the letters "Celtics" above it, wrapped in a green circle, which has been used since the 1998–99 season.
Beginning in 2005–06, the Celtics began using alternate road jerseys which are green with black trim and the word "Boston" on the front side of the jersey. The alternate road jersey was rarely seen with few appearances in its first 2 seasons, but in 2007–08 it has been used much more often, in more than half of the road games.
Also in 2005–06, the Celtics began a tradition of wearing their green jerseys with gold trim as part of the St. Patrick's Day celebrations the NBA puts into place every third week of March. Except for the words "Boston" in front and the gold trim, the St. Patrick's Day jerseys resemble the regular road jerseys.
During the 2006–07 season, the Celtics wore a commemorative patch of a black shamrock with the nickname "Red" in green letters on the right top of the jersey in remembrance of Red Auerbach, who died shortly prior to the beginning of the season.
During the NBA Europe Live Tour prior to the 2007–08 season, the Celtics used the alternate road jerseys in their game against the Toronto Raptors in Rome, except that the words "Boston" on the front side of the jersey and the shamrock on the shorts and on the reverse side of the jersey contained the green, white and red tricolors of the Italian flag. In the second game in London, the regular road jerseys featured a patch containing the Union Jack.
The team has honored deceased members of the Celtics family with a commemorative black band on the left shoulder strap of the jersey. It has been featured seven times in the history of the franchise: Walter Brown (1964–65), Bob Schmertz (1975–76), Joan Cohen (1989–90), Johnny Most (1993–94), Reggie Lewis (1993–94), Dorothy Auerbach (2000–01) and Dennis Johnson (2006–07).
The team also had the tradition of wearing black sneakers through most of their history, except during the early 1980s when they wore green sneakers. Beginning with the 2003–04 season, the team began to wear white sneakers at home games.