For months, I've been procrastinating on writing an article about how some of our franchise's old-timers have been forgotten by the new generation of Celtics' fans. At the forefront of my mind in pondering that article has always been Ed Macauley. Easy Ed died yesterday; he was 83.
It saddens me deeply that Macauley's legacy in Celtics lore is "one of the guys traded for Bill Russell". Indeed, that's how ESPN almost insultingly remembers him this morning, both in their headline -- "Ex-Celtic Macauley dies; was traded for Russell" -- and in their obituary:
Macauley played for the Celtics from the 1950-51 season until 1955-56. He and the draft rights to future Hall of Famer Cliff Hagan were traded by Boston to the St. Louis Hawks on April 29, 1956, for the rights to Russell, a move that changed the power structure of the NBA.
The Celtics went on to win 11 titles with Russell dominating in the paint.
Macauley was more than a trading chip. He was the team's first superstar. If I told you there was only one player in Celtics history that had finished in the top ten in the NBA at varying times in his career in points per game, rebounds per game, and assists per game, how many of you would have guessed the answer was Larry Bird or John Havlicek? Not so; it was Macauley. Think about that for a minute: a top ten player in points, rebounds, and assists. He also finished top ten in FT% once, and led the league in FG% twice. This is a player who was dominant, which explains why he was three times first-team All-NBA, and made the All-Star team all six years he was in Boston.
Yes, he didn't win a title here, although he helped the St. Louis Hawks beat Russell and the Celts in the 1958 Finals. Is it that lack of a championship that explains why Celtics fans don't recognize his greatness? In a recent poll of CelticsBlog readers asked to pick the 11th best Celtic of all-time, Macauley received 8 out of 1027 votes; that equates to well less than 1%. He finished behind JoJo White, Dennis Johnson, and Cedric Maxwell, all great players, but not of the caliber of Macauley when compared to their peers. It's not just the lack of titles, though; even Reggie Lewis, another Celtics hero without a title, garnered 7% of the vote.
I think for a lot of fans, they forget that there was an NBA before Bill Russell. Certainly, that's understandable; it was Russell (along with Red Auerbach) who put the Celtics on the map. However, Russell's greatness shouldn't diminish Macauley's. I'd encourage each of you that is reading this article to shift your focus from the labor drama between today's millionaire players and billionaire owners, and instead research one of the pioneers that helped build the game into what it is today.
RIP, Ed Macauley. Your greatness is remembered.
Related: Take It Easy, Ed | Hardwood Paroxysm