The Boston Celtics, more so than any other NBA franchise, knows what a championship team looks like, winning a record 17 titles. Trying to figure out the top 5 Celtic teams of all time is quite the task, with that many teams to choose from.
The greatest winner in American sports history, Bill Russell, and Celtic patriarch, Red Auerbach, absolutely dominated the late 50’s and entire 60’s NBA landscape, winning 11 championships. Russell even won his last couple titles as a player-coach, which doesn’t seem plausible in this day and age.
Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, and Jo Jo White guided the Celtics to a pair of titles in the mid 70’s. These Celtic championships are definitely the most unappreciated era of this iconic organization.
The greatest front court of all time, the legendary Big 3 of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish won 3 titles in the 1980’s. This team, along with the 80’s Lakers brought the NBA into the modern era and is looked upon as the golden age of the league.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, the updated Big 3, captured the last Celtic championship. Unfortunately for Celtic fans, this legendary group didn’t join forces until later in their careers, otherwise there would have been several more titles from this group.
The 5th best Celtic team of all time were the 1968-69 team. They may have been a bit long in the tooth, with the great Russell and Sam Jones retiring after the season, however, they had an unbelievable amount of pride and grit. That may sound cliche, but how else do you explain them overtaking the more talented Lakers of Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor. They hung around in the series and eventually won game 7 in L.A., capping off the Russell dynasty.
A team with a record 8 Hall of Famers, the 1962-63 team ranks 4th all time. Russell and Sam Jones were in their primes, Bob Cousy, the 1st iconic point guard, in his last full season in the league, was still playing well, and then you add in rookie and future stat, John Havlicek This team was loaded at every position, and the best team of the Russell/Auerbach era.
With a tremendous amount of talent and toughness, the 1983-1984 Celtic team ranks 3rd of all time. They, in all honesty, were not as good as the Lakers that year. Saying they relied solely on toughness would be an insult to their talent, but that attribute is what put them over the top in that fiercely fought seven game series. The acquisition of 1979 NBA Finals MVP and future Hall of Famer, Dennis Johnson, boosted the back court to a higher level, giving Magic Johnson one of his toughest matchups. Having Bird enter his prime, winning his first regular season and eventually Finals MVP, certainly helped matters.
The 2007-2008 defensive juggernaut, led by the new Big 3, comes in as the 2nd best Celtic team of all time. In their initial season together, they steamrolled through the league, developing almost instant chemistry. There haven’t been too many teams that have come together in such a quick, dominant fashion. With their Hall of Fame core, and talented role players, such as Rajon Rondo, P.J. Brown, James Posey, and Kendrick Perkins, once they got their collective footing in the playoffs, there was no stopping them. The unique goal of the new Big 3 attaining their first championship, gave this team all the motivation it needed in becoming one of the best defensive teams of all time.
Let there be no doubt that the greatest Celtic team of all time, was also the NBA’s greatest ever too. That would be the absurdly talented 1985-1986 Celtics. Bird was at his peak, winning his 3rd straight MVP, McHale was a superstar, Parish was the perfect 3rd wheel, Dennis Johnson the unsung Hall of Fame point guard, and a wealth of talent off the bench, both big and small. Bill Walton, the ultra talented, ultra injury prone center , was acquired in an off-season deal, and ended up winning the 6th man of the year. This was the best passing team ever, with practically everyone on the team being above average passers, with several being among the best ever (Bird, Walton). The only unfortunate thing to happen for the Celtics that season, was that the Lakers were not able to make the Finals. The Lakers were probably wise to allow the Rockets make the finals, because Showtime would’ve been smoked.