Bill Russell. Larry Bird. Paul Pierce. Jayson Tatum.
The Boston Celtics organization has been home to many great players spanning nearly every era of NBA basketball. Naturally, these players became beloved by the fanbase.
Greatness always shines through, propelling those who achieve it into the spotlight. But there are many paths to stardom when it comes to Celtics fans. Oftentimes, the most loved players aren’t stars at all, but the exact opposite.
Celtics fans are some of the most connected in the sport. That’s just the way Boston operates. In the case of most, the phrase “bleed green” is as close to literal as it possibly can be. They eat, sleep, and breathe Celtics basketball with every game, basket, and dribble.
That level of dedication breeds the most unlikely bonds where weird Celtics Twitter meets diehard fandom.
During his tenure with the Celtics, Daniel Theis quite literally had fans ready to go to battle for him. “The War on Theis” was an all-too-real movement, and despite only appearing in 257 games with Boston in a supporting role, Theis developed a serious following.
The big man is most well-known for his 2019-20 campaign with the Celtics, in which he started 64 of the 65 regular season games he played in and all 17 playoff games. He wasn’t the starting center Boston needed to win a title, but even during his second stint with the Celtics, fans gravitated to the German vet.
Twenty-six. Twenty-six and 169. That’s how many games and minutes Tacko Fall played for the Celtics. Despite spending just two years in Boston, fans were absolutely obsessed with the 7-foot-6 behemoth.
From chanting his name in garbage time to getting Brad Stevens to taunt the crowd, urging them to bring their best before subbing him into the game, Fall captivated the crowd every time he stepped onto the court. He may not have turned into the rotation player many hoped he’d be, but the Fall experience in Beantown is an era fans can look back on with a smile.
A premier selection by CelticsBlog editor extraordinaire Bill Sy, Jonas Jerebko was an underrated role player in Boston who played some big-time playoff minutes. One peek at Celtics Reddit unveils a post where a Utah Jazz fan asked if Boston fans liked Jerebko. The first response? “Yeah he was great are you ******* insane? WE all loved him.”
Jerebko was prone to a few clutch threes, but his energy on the court may have been his best attribute. Most fans still remember when the Swedish forward stood over Kevin Love and told him to “stand up” and stop flopping. How could Celtics fans not fall in love with a guy like that?
Somehow, here’s a guy who spent even less time with the Celtics than Fall did. Whether it’s a food or a video game character, Boston fans seemingly have a thing for guys with fun names because Luigi Datome was beloved during his brief 18-game stint with the team.
As you can imagine, Datome didn’t accomplish much in Boston (he never really had the time to), but he was a loveable side character during the team’s 2014-15 campaign. And while it didn’t occur during his time with the Celtics, kudos to CelticsBlog’s Oliver Fox for gracing us with this video of Datome getting blocked… by the backboard.
Falling more in line with the Jerebko-Theis pipeline rather than the Fall-Datome duo, Brandon Bass enjoyed the best years of his career in Boston. His silky-smooth mid-range game made him a joy to watch. (If only he could have extended it into a three-point shot, he may have stuck around in the league for a bit longer.)
Bass played with the perfect mix of finesse, surprise hops, and energy to make him an instant fan favorite during his time with the Celtics. There was nothing like watching the big man jab step, fake a middy, and then drive to the hoop for a slam. He was a great carryover piece from the Big 3 era to the rebuilding years. (And Brandon Bass Jr. is on his way to the league, with offers from LSU, Houston, and Illinois already.)
“I LOVE WALTAH!” If the great Tommy Hainsohn loves a guy, then Celtics fans should (and did), too. Walter McCarty was a member of the dark-age Celtics, spending seven-and-a-half years in Boston from 1997-2004. The 6-foot-10 forward gave the league a first look at what a stretch four was.
He shot 34.9% from deep during his time with the Celtics, including two separate seasons of shooting above 37.0% from behind the arc. He never even averaged eight points a game, but he played with great hustle and seemingly made all the big shots he got. It was a perfect mix for a Celtic, and Heinsohn, fan favorite.
A personal favorite of the First to the Floor podcast, Jordan Crawford provided the blend of “obvious role player” and “whoa, this guy could be really good” that only a few guys can. Boston traded Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins for him in 2013, and while they flipped him a year later, his time with the Celtics was electric.
Crawford only spent 66 games with the Celtics, and he only averaged 12 points, but he scored 20+ in 10 games. The 6-foot-4 guard even took home Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors in December of 2013. Plus, he dunked on LeBron James during his own camp in 2009, so he was truly destined to be loved by Celtics fans.
Loved largely for his role in Boston’s 2008 championship run, Leon Powe endeared himself to Celtics fans with a 21-point performance in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. His showing propelled the Celtics to a six-point win. They took the series in six games, and he even chipped in with eight points in the final contest.
Alongside the likes of James Posey and Eddie House, who could also be on this list, Powe may not have been a star, but he’s loved like one. Powe continued his work with the Celtics after his short-lived playing career was done, too, as they hired him as a community ambassador in 2014.
After being drafted second overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2010, Evan Turner was traded in the final year of his rookie contract. He signed with the Celtics the following summer and immediately made an impact. Turner wasn’t a great three-point shooter, but he did just about everything else on the court well. His time with the Celtics even helped him earn a massive contract from the Portland Trail Blazers.
While Turner played pretty solid during his time in Boston, it was his personality that made him so lovable. Turner was so well-liked by the Celtics organization that they brought him back in a coaching role once he retired from basketball in 2020. He still interacts with Celtics fans on Twitter to this day.
His DPOY win could qualify him for the “too good for this list” group, but considering he’s never been an All-Star, leaving Marcus Smart out seemed wrong. The ultimate fan-favorite during his nine-year stint with the Celtics, Smart may be the most beloved non-star in the history of the organization.
From his on-court hustle to his off-the-court community work, Smart was the epitome of what a Celtic should be. Obviously, his time with the team didn’t end the way he or the fans wanted, but his return to TD Garden will be the perfect indicator of just how much he meant to the city.
Other players who could have been included on this list include Shane Larkin, Vitor Faverani, David Wesley, Ed Pickney, and Jared Sillinger, all of whom were mentioned in the CelticsBlog chat.
Needless to say, few other fanbases fall in love with role players quite like Celtics Nation.