Let's delve into the past.
To the days when the Boston Celtics ruled over the NBA. When Bill Russell won too many rings to fit on his fingers. When Larry Bird messed with his opponents minds and scored 20 on an off night. When the Big Three set the new standard of a mega-team in the 2000s. All those 17 teams have cemented their spots in sports history, while a few have stood out and tend to make their way into the "Best Teams of All Time" conversation.
Some say the 1985 Celtics were arguably a top 3 team of all time, and plenty of biased Boston dwellers would say they were the best. The fact is that they were second to none. They were gritty, quick, rounded out, and had one of the most solid cores of any team on paper. But all great teams start off with an intelligent coach. In this case it was KC Jones, 8 time champion in Boston. Jones lead a roster captained by none other than Larry Bird. The supporting cast consisted of four Hall of Famers in players like Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, Bill Walton, and Kevin McHale.
It was Bird's best year as a pro hands down. The numbers speak for themselves. The accolades are just other pieces of proof. Regular Season MVP, Finals MVP, Associated Press Athlete of the Year, All NBA First Team. His teammates held their own niches. McHale as a rim protector and all around defensive menace--he was awarded All NBA Defensive First Team. Parish's numbers had begun to teeter off, yet he was a contributor to both offense, defense, and rebounding. Dennis Johnson was a spectacular defender and scorer. Bill Walton energized the bench and won Sixth Man of the Year because of it. Jerry Sichting was a solid three point shooter off the bench. Oh, and that guy Danny Ainge wasn't too shabby either.
The regular season was nearly record setting, as they came one win away from toppling the best win-loss record. The team lost just 15 times and just once at home. Then in the postseason, then Celtics bulldozed their way to the Finals by taking down the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, and Milwaukee Bucks and entered the championship with just one loss on their resume. Then when it came down to their opponent, the Houston Rockets defeated the Lakers in the West, which lead to a Celtics championship after 6 games.
The Celtics offense was simply dominant as they only scored under 100 points in two games. In many victories, the team scored well over 110 points. Over the course of the season, this squad averaged 114 PPG and allowed 104 PPG. Offensively, they were arguably the most well rounded offense of their era. They had phenomenal scorers, rim protectors, and their big men passed like guards. They recorded a 111.8 offensive rating.
Most Celtics fans would say that the 1985 Celtics were the best team to wear green, hands down. However, Boston has too rich of a history to have one clear cut winner.
Of the 11 championship teams that the great Bill Russell manned, the 1964 team was by far the most well rounded. In no way was it Russell's best year as a pro, neither was it Havlicek's. But that did not mean the rest of the roster was not smooth around the edges. The team consisted of five Hall of Fame players and was coached by Red Auerbach. On the team, players like Sam Jones, KC Jones, and Tom Heinsohn surrounded the big man. John Havlicek was still a young guy and was entering his third season as a pro. Offensively, six players averaged double digits in scoring with Sam Jones leading the pack by scoring 25.9. While Russell was not notorious for his copious amount of points scored, he definitely contributed to the effort with 14 PPG.
The defensive side is where Boston truly dominated. Bill Russell was practically unstoppable within his era. He was too big and athletic for almost everyone in the league. Russell averaged 24 rebounds per contest and--despite it not being counted as a stat back then--some say his blocks per game would equate to around 6 blocks per game.
How did this Celtics team fare in the playoffs? Well they entered the postseason with a 62-18 record and received a first round bye. Next they took down the Philadelphia 76ers and Wilt Chamberlain in 7 games. Then they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in 5 games. The squad recorded an offensive rating of 90.9 and a defensive rating of 84.2.
The biggest problem with this 1964 team is that the level of competition was minimal. Wilt Chamberlain was the only other big man to challenge Bill. Many people even question whether Russell would be as elite if he went up against big men like Shaq or Dwight Howard.
Yes, the modern era Celtics were statistically and physically among the best of all time. It was the first season with the Big Three--Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen--and was a magical year in Boston. Kevin Garnett was at the top of his defensive game, Paul Pierce was scoring 20 points a night, Ray Allen was knocking down three after three, and Rajon Rondo was beginning to realize his talents as a sophomore. Doc Rivers lead this bunch to a 66-16 regular season record, one game short of the 1985 team. How did this mega team come together? Let's look back.
Ray Allen was acquired through a draft trade when the Celtics were stuck with the fifth pick. This left them in no position to draft Greg Oden (hahaha) or Kevin Durant (aww) who promised to go 1 and 2. So they traded their pick along with some players (Delonte West, Wally, and Jeff Green) for the future Hall of Fame marksman and Glen Davis. Kevin Garnett was acquired through a trade that involved Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, and Sebastian Telfair. Thus, the Big Three was formed.
The team played too recently to consist of any Hall of Famers, but it can be safely said that Garnett, Pierce, Allen, and Sam Cassell (even though he played just 17 games that season) will all be headed to the HOF when their careers are over. Oh and I forgot Brian Scalabrine...he will be in the Hall of Fame.
The team had a historic season where they went 66-16 but the playoffs were far from easy. They played the most playoff games a team has played in a postseason, 26, but were eventually victorious as they beat the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
Who is the winner?
Any one of these teams can be argued and supported with concrete facts, however, through statistics and roster, the 1985 Celtics are the winners.
Larry Bird was at the top of his game, and his supporting cast was filled with All Stars and Hall of Famers. They were an indestructible offense and a lock down defensive team.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!