Tyler made a list of his favorite Patriots of all time, and with basketball season right around the corner, and with nothing else really going in the sport of basketball at the moment, I figured now would be a good time to compile my list of favorite Celtics players ever.
And just like Tyler’s list, I have to remember watching these players play, which, unfortunately, means no Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Kevin McHale, etc.
Starting off with…
5. Isaiah Thomas- Brought over from the Suns in a trade of February of 2015, Thomas has been nothing short of spectacular in his short time in Boston. He’s led the C’s to back-to-back playoff appearances and is the face of the franchise along with Al Horford, whom he recruited to Boston. He’s the emotional leader of the squad, an underdog, and just so happens to be an All-Star at just 5’9″ in a league where you supposedly need size to be successful. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in heart, grit and emotion.
From being the last overall pick in 2011, developing into a quality player for the Sacramento Kings, to be traded to Phoenix and being lost in the shuffle of point guards and then being traded to Boston, Thomas has worked to where he is today, something fans in Boston love. While he wasn’t drafted by the Celtics, the fans of Boston have taken them in as one of their own.
He’s one of those athletes that has really embraced the city of Boston, and when it comes to it, I hope Danny Ainge and Wyc Grousbeck make the decision to pay up keep him in Boston for a long time.
4. Rajon Rondo- The point guard before Isaiah, Rajon Rondo was a wizard with the ball in Boston. A truly gifted passer, Rondo was the lead guard for the 2008 championship team, and was a four time All-Star in his time donning the green and white. What stuck out about Rondo, outside of making defenders look foolish while attacking the basket, was his toughness and competitiveness.
Nothing epitomized those traits than on May 7th, 2011, in game three of the Eastern Conference Semi’s where Rondo poked the ball away from former Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (that sounds so weird to say) and was taken down by Wade and dislocated his elbow, but somehow managed to return later in the game. As it turns out, him and Wade are now teammates in Chicago. If you thought he was competitive on the court, you should see him play Connect Four.
Super low-key a product of Kentucky and Oak Hill Academy (two basketball powerhouses), Rondo in his prime was an elite two way guard. Rondo loves to be an agitator, whether it’s trash talking on the court, being a pesky defender or trying to sneak into opposing teams huddles, Rajon loves to get under opposing player’s skin.
Unfortunately, his fallout in Boston was not kind, as his blew out his knee and was then traded to the Dallas Mavericks, where his attitude really took a turn for the worse.
3. Antoine Walker- Walker was Robin to Paul Pierce’s Batman in the early 2000s. One of the first modern day combo-forwards, Walker could hurt you from inside and out, and when he hit a bucket, he wasn’t afraid to tell you about it.
A three time All-Star during his time in Boston, Antoine was a showman for the Boston crowd and was one of the keys in the revival of the Celtics in the early 2000’s. He could really fill it up, never scoring less than 16 points per game in his years in Boston. Walker had an elite all around offensive game, and was a nightly double-double threat due to his outstanding abilities on the glass.
One of the truly underrated and under appreciated stars of his time, life after basketball for Walker hasn’t been fun. He lost all of his $108 million dollars in earnings after being fooled in a real estate scam and lending his money to family and friends. The good news is that Antoine seems to be back on his feet, which makes me smile.
2. Kevin Garnett- I got the idea for this piece because of KG’s retirement. There’s not much to say about Garnett that hasn’t already been said. He’s a future first ballot Hall of Famer and was the emotional leader of every single team he played for.
A notoriously vicious trash talker, Garnett is on record for saying some of the most awful things ever said to human beings. So bad that I refuse to put a link to it, so it’s up to you readers to look it up for yourselves. But I’m a guy who loves trash talk, and KG was the best of his time at it.
He’ll always be remembered in the city of Boston for bringing home banner 17, as well as the steep price the Celtics paid to acquire his services. A dominant two-way player, Garnett was one of those rare players that could take over a game on both ends singlehandedly.
While his best days were certainly behind him when he got to the Bean, he still managed to win Defensive player of the Year in his first year. He was arguably the most important piece of the Big Three, and was the glue that kept them together.
Despite only playing in Boston for six years, his name will be remembered forever by fans and deserved to be recognized as one of the names in a long list of all-time Celtics.
And at #1…
Paul Pierce- As if this is even a surprise. I legitimately cried the day Paul Pierce got traded to the Brooklyn Nets. The only other time I cried for a sporting event/story was Super Bowl 42, and both to me are perfectly acceptable to cry over. Pierce is the best Celtic since Larry Bird, no questions asked.
He scored over 24,000 points as a Celtic in 15 years and was a 10 time All-Star. He went through two rebuilding processes early in his career, but never left the team that drafted him 10th overall in 1998 before he got a taste of the Finals. Pierce is probably the best pure scorer in Celtics history. He lived for mid-range jumpers from the elbow, and I seriously don’t think he ever missed one. He wasn’t a great athlete in his prime, but he put more than a couple of defenders on posters.
The thing that set “The Truth”, a nickname coined by Shaquille O’Neal, apart from his peers was his ability down the stretch. Paul is one of the most clutch players ever, and always delivered down the stretch.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Pierce, as early in his career he survived a stabbing and somehow managed to not miss a game. He missed almost half of the 06-07 season with injuries, and was famously helped off the court in game one of the NBA Finals dealing cramps (which he totally overreacted to but I’ll throw it in here anyways) and then leading the Celtics with 22 points in the win.
While he’s been struggling in Los Angeles for the Clippers under Doc Rivers, there will always be a spot on the roster, and in the hearts of fans, for Pierce if he desires to come back to Boston.
Honorable Mentions- Jae Crowder, James Posey, Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen
That’s right, no Ray Allen. Obviously the C’s don’t win in 2008 without him, but Ray never really seemed to love Boston, and for that, I don’t love him. And, if you couldn’t tell from this HM list, I’m a sucker for gritty role players, and Brian Scalabrine.
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