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Community Rankings: 10th Best Celtic Ever

As I write this, it's unclear who is going to win the vote for #9 between KG and Sam Jones. (Edit: It's Sam Jones, by a five vote margin! Wow). The stiff competition between those two, along with the entry of three new participants in today's poll (Ed Macauley, Reggie Lewis, and Cedric Maxwell), begs the question of "How important are titles in determining a player's Celtic's legacy?"

When we talk about Sam Jones vs. KG, rings figure into it. Sam has ten of them, the second most all-time. KG has only one, but he carried his team to that one title by, among other things, changing the intensity level of the team and transforming the defense. Does KG's huge role on that one title team (after a drought of 22 years) mean more than Sam Jones' ten rings, where he was arguably more of a Robin to Bill Russell's Batman? Of course, that pays short shrift of Jones' role on those teams; he led the Celtics in scoring four times, and was very clutch in the playoffs. However, the narrative has become one of "quality vs. quantity", with KG perceived to have the highest quality. Assuming that's the case, does that quality trump the "quantity" of multiple championships?

That debate brings us to today's entrants into the poll. Ed Macauley and Reggie Lewis played six seasons with the Celtics, while Cedric Maxwell played eight. By all indications, Ed Macauley was most highly regarded by his peers. He made the all-star game each of his six seasons with the Celtics, and he was voted to the All-NBA time four times. He was one of the early NBA's first legitimate superstars. He finished in the top-ten in the NBA in points per game in each of his six seasons, was top ten in rebounds per game once, top ten in assists three times, and led the NBA in FG% twice (and was top-ten five times while with the Celts). Read that again. This guy dominated pretty much every statistical category in the game, and yet he's a largely forgotten man by Celtics fans. Why? Some of it is obviously that he played in the 1950s, before television and today's hype. Most Celtics fans don't remember seeing him play. However, another big part of his lack of recognition has to be that he never won a title with the Celtics. It doesn't help his case that the man he was traded for -- Bill Russell -- came to town and immediately started winning. It seems as though Macauley doesn't get his due because he was never able to get over the hump with the Celtics.

If that's the case, the same should hold true of Reggie Lewis, correct? After all, Reggie only made one all-star team, and his teams never made much noise in the playoffs. Why, then, is he remembered so fondly? Unfortunately, the answer to that question probably is related to his tragic death, along with the death of another young man, Len Bias. It's hard to think of Reggie's legacy without thinking about what could have been, had he stayed healthy. Reggie was just coming into his own when he died. Reggie was always a very good defender and a good scorer, but he was really starting to make noise that he was the next Celtics star. He averaged 20.8 points per game in both '92 and '93, and did it very efficiently. In the '92 playoffs, he scored 28 points per game. After the Big Three era, Reggie was supposed to be the man, and I think a lot of fans feel that if fate hadn't been so cruel, Reggie would have won championships. Can you imagine a nucleus of Reggie Lewis and Len Bias? That team could have challenged the Bulls for 1990s dominance. Instead, we got Dino Radja and Dominique Wilkins. Therefore, I think Reggie is the one player who is exempt from the "titles" discussion.

Lastly, there's Cedric Maxwell. Max is the first guy in our poll never to have made an all-star team. Despite leading the league in FG% while with the Celtics, he didn't enjoy a lot of individual accolades. However, the one that he did win has earned him a permanent place in the hearts of Celtics fans: 1981 Finals MVP. Max came up huge in the Finals that year, putting up 28 points and 19 rebounds in the series-turning Game 5. In 1984, it was Max who hollered "Get on my back, boys" before Game 7 against the Lakers. He then proceeded to score 24 points and lead the Celts to victory. This is Maxwell's legacy. It doesn't matter that Larry Bird later accused him of quitting on the team and costing the Celtics a championship in '85. It doesn't matter that Maxwell has a history of saying crazy things, like that Dirk is a better player than Larry. Why? Because the one thing we value even more than the sanctity of Larry Bird is titles, and Cedric Maxwell delivered two of them. He earned his legacy by coming up big when it mattered. (It also doesn't hurt that he said "if I saw a Laker on fire and I was holding a glass of water, I’d drink the water". Well said, Max, well said.)

So, what's your opinion? How important are championships in your assessment of Celtics greats?

(Milestones and achievements of the contenders, after the jump...)

The tale of the tape (while with the Celtics):

Kevin Garnett:4 seasons, 1 title, 4-time All-Star, DPOY, 1-time All-NBA, 3-time All-Defense

Robert Parish: 14 seasons, 3 titles, 9-time All-Star, 2-time All-NBA

Bill Sharman: 10 seasons, 4 titles, 8-time All-Star, 7-time All-NBA

Jo Jo White: 10 seasons, 2 titles, 7-time All-Star, Finals MVP, 2-time All-NBA

Dennis Johnson: 7 seasons, 2 titles, 1-time All-Star, 4-time All-Defense

Ed Macauley: 6 seasons, 6-time All-Star, 4-time All-NBA

Reggie Lewis: 6 seasons, 1-time All-Star

Cedric Maxwell: 8 seasons, 2 titles, Finals MVP

Those remaining:

00 Robert Parish
3 Dennis Johnson
5 Kevin Garnett
5 Bill Walton
6 Bill Russell
7 Tiny Archibald
8 Antoine Walker
9 Rajon Rondo
10 JoJo White
12 Don Chaney
14 Bob Cousy
15 Tom Heinsohn
16 Tom Sanders
17 John Havlicek
18 Bailey Howell
LOSCY Jim Loscutoff
18 Dave Cowens
19 Don Nelson
20 Ray Allen
21 Bill Sharman
22 Ed Macauley
23 Frank Ramsey
24 Sam Jones
25 KC Jones
31 Cedric Maxwell
32 Kevin McHale
33 Larry Bird
34 Paul Pierce

35 Paul Silas
35 Reggie Lewis
40 Dino Radja
43 Kendrick Perkins
44 Danny Ainge

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