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10 Takeaways: Keith Smith’s all-time favorite Celtics

They weren’t all the best Celtics, but they were all fan favorites

1991 NBA Playoffs: Kevin McHale and Larry Bird Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

During this suspension of the NBA season we remain committed to bringing you 10 Takeaways on a semi-regular basis here at CelticsBlog. Hopefully these posts inspire discussion, make you think or, most importantly, put a smile on your face.

This edition of 10 Takeaways is my all-time favorite Celtics. Note: This is not who I think the best Celtics are. A couple of choices should make that very evident! These are simply the Celtics who I enjoyed the most.

I kept this list to players who were on Boston’s roster during my lifetime as a Celtics fan. That started for me in the early 1980s. So, you won’t see Bill Russell here. He’d be at the top of a lot of lists, but I never saw him play.

With those ground rules set, here are my 10 all-time favorite Celtics!

1. Larry Bird: If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you knew The Legend would be at the top of my list. I grew up watching the Bird-era Celtics. My family allows me to claim 1984 as my first championship, because I wasn’t quite old enough to really remember 1981.

Bird was just special. He could do it all on the basketball court. He was humble and self-made. For a kid growing up in the Boston-area, there wasn’t really a better basketball role model.

2. Paul Pierce: Yes. I loved Paul Pierce. Despite the comments on this article that seem to think differently. My love for Pierce is a little different than just his on-court impact though.

Like a lot of sports fans, I measure time by sporting events. Pierce was drafted by the Celtics when I was in college. His tenure in Boston overlapped with every major milestone of my adult life. He helped lead a ragtag bunch to a shocking Eastern Conference Finals run as I moved from Massachusetts to Florida. Pierce was almost traded when we lived in California. As we moved back to Florida, him and Kevin Garnett teamed up for Banner 17. And the aging warriors were back in the NBA Finals a couple years later, while we held our newborn daughter.

Beyond that, he came in a doughy, non-athletic player. He was a lot like yours truly that respect! As Pierce aged, he worked on his body and game. Me? Not so much. But I loved Paul Pierce and everything he did. So much so, that I hardly regard him wearing anything but green.

3. Kevin Garnett: Man did I love KG. Boston traded for him on my birthday. I was living in Southern California at the time, surrounded by Lakers fans who told me they were getting Garnett on a daily basis. I may have done a little gloating. One of my big sports regrets is that I moved back to Florida just as the 2008 playoff run started.

I loved KG’s intensity. He was easily the craziest Celtic of my lifetime. His defense made me watch the game on that end a little differently. He saw everything on the floor as a defender. Watching Garnett made me understand how to appreciate Marcus Smart that much more.

And he brought us this all-time moment:

4. Jayson Tatum: You know all about Tatum. He’s awesome. I remember seeing him play at Summer League and saying to anyone who would listen: “This kid is really good.” Turns out, I was right on with that one!

The best part? Tatum is just getting started. When he did this as a rookie, I was left speechless for one of the few times in my life:

5. Isaiah Thomas: This one is really easy. He was fun as could be and he was my daughter’s favorite player. She would wake up every morning and tell our Alexa device to “NBA Vote - Isaiah Thomas” 10 times. IT was her guy.

I loved everything about IT. He was small, he was tough, he loved Boston and Boston loved him back. I understood then, and still understand, why he was traded. But that one stung a little. In that link, you can see a video of how broken-hearted our daughter was. IT was here for a comparatively short time, but man was he special. And he made my daughter love the game I love the most. That’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

6. Reggie Lewis: Every year, on or around the anniversary of his death, I ask the team at CelticsBlog to re-run this piece. I’ll never, ever forget where I was when Reggie Lewis collapsed on the court, nor being in the car with my mom and friends when the radio broke in that he was rushed to the hospital.

Why Reggie was special is in that article. He was our post-Bird bridge. He was the guy who was going to keep Boston on top. And he was about as Boston an athlete as the city had at the time, having gone to Northeastern.

And when a guy blocks Michael Jordan four times in the same game, you can’t help but fall in love:

7. Kevin McHale: When I was learning how to play basketball, I was one of the big kids. I played inside. In those days, if you wanted to learn how to score inside, you watched Kevin McHale.

I eventually got to the point where my up-and-under move got me at least a couple of hoops a game. I got that move from watching McHale do it about a million times.

After Reggie Lewis went down against the Hornets, in a game Boston won, McHale was Boston’s best player. He retired after that series, and even though the Celtics lost, McHale went out having played great ball.

8. Avery Bradley: I know this one might come as a weird choice, but AB meant a lot to me as a Celtics fan. He came in a late first-round pick and wasn’t very highly regarded. Everyone knew Bradley could defend, but he couldn’t really shoot or handle the ball. For a while, it looked like Bradley was another draft miss by Boston.

Bradley put in the time to become a solid shooter. And the defense never really wavered. For a brief period of time, because we watched him grow, Bradley became “our guy”.

I’ll never forget yelping when AB put Dwyane Wade on his butt with this block:

9. Antoine Walker: Walker was so polarizing for Celtics fans. He was the next franchise player when he first got to Boston. Remember him starting at center down stretch of the season where the Celts tanked for Tim Duncan?

Walker eventually got fans frustrated with the relentless three-point bombing. In reality, Walker was just ahead of his time. In 2002, as a 6’8’’ forward, he took eight three-pointers per game. That was unheard of at the time. By the time he was traded to Dallas, fans were ready to see him go. It was all just too much for too little payoff.

About a year later, when the Celtics re-acquired him at the trade deadline, everyone was happy to see Employee #8 back in the family. And when he won a title in 2006, everyone in Boston was happy for him.

And as a kid of the 90s, you know I imitated the “Walker Wiggle” more than a few times!

10. Eddie House: This one is solely personal. My wife and I LOVED Eddie House during his Celtics years. He would come in the game to do one thing and one thing only: shoot the ball.

And on a regular basis, my wife would scream about his House’s kids being on the court during games, often during play! It got to be a running joke in our house, akin to “that kid is on the escalator again!”

Overall, House was never great for Boston. But as a self-styled shooter, I loved his game. And he made a ton of big plays during the 2008 title run.

There you have it. My top-10 all-time favorite Celtics. If I did this list five years ago, it would certainly change. Five years from now, it will look different too. Heck, five minutes ago or five minutes from now, it might change. Different players bring up different memories and mean different things.

Now, it’s your turn. Sound off in the comments and let’s hear who some of your favorite Celtics are!

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