The NBA's all-time starting five: Boston Celtics

Ball Don't Lie
The NBA's all-time starting five: Boston Celtics
The NBA's all-time starting five: Boston Celtics

You’re in your second semester of AP Basketball History, you love really good teams, and you love lists. With precious little drama left in the NBA’s 2015 offseason, why don’t we hit the barroom and/or barbershop, pour ourselves a frosty mug of Barbicide, and get to arguin’ over each franchise’s most formidable starting five-man lineup.

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Because we don’t like making tough decisions, the lineups will reflect the All-NBA line of thinking. There will be no differentiation between separate forward and guard positions, and the squads will be chosen after careful consideration of individual merits only – we don’t really care if your team’s top shooting guard and point guard don’t get along.

These rankings will roll out based on when each franchise began its NBA life. We continue with the Boston Celtics, who have been so good over the last 60 seasons that they have no numbers left to give you.

C: Bill Russell. Completely changed the way basketball was played. Was the devastating go-to defensive force on 11 Celtic championship teams, an outfit that helped shape the way modern basketball is run. Won five NBA MVP awards. I once saw him eat an ice cream sandwich in two bites.

F: John Havlicek. A durable two-way forward that probably could have played at a high level several years following his 1978 retirement. Was the NBA’s third-leading all-time scorer upon that retirement day. An eight-time champion and 13-time All-Star. Once stole the ball.

F: Larry Bird. Overcame a debilitating lack of athleticism that sportswriters of the era chose to talk up despite his ability to out-run, out-quick, out-shoot, out-pass, and out-rebound just about every player of his position in his or several players’ other eras. Won three championships and guested in two other Finals’ stages. Quite possibly the finest all-around player of all time. Would go to great lengths in order to secure a hamburger sandwich.

G: Sam Jones. Quite possibly the greatest bank-shot artist in NBA history. Won ten NBA championships, because that’s what Celtics did back then.

G: Bob Cousy. Made the game interesting at a time when, let’s be honest, the game wasn’t all that interesting. Easily the greatest NBA player in history to only make 37 percent of his shots from the field on average, which is something to bring up to your dad when he whines about Stephen Curry pulling up for a 25-footer with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. Sensibly navigated several deep Celtic rosters, full of eager hands, while still maintaining an aesthetic flair that made the C’s palatable national television draws during the NBA’s lean years.

Kevin McHale didn’t make this team. Paul Pierce didn’t make this team. Robert Parish and Jo Jo White didn’t make this team. Dave Cowens. This is how strong the Celtics tradition is.

Frank Ramsey basically invented the idea that the first guy off the bench could be the most important player on the court, and he missed out. McHale followed up on that ideal. Dennis Johnson was the steady hand behind two different Celtic championships at lead guard, and he fell short. Tom Heinsohn might be a bit of a punch line to League Pass obsessives, but he was an absolute killer in the frontcourt for several Celtic championship clubs. Ed Macauley was the Jahlil Okafor of his time.

The Celtics are so deep and have been so loaded that it almost confounds as to why they’ve only won 17 championships. The team was way ahead of its time in its ability to scout NBA-level talent that would transcend generations, and though there were some rough stretches, the C’s have spent the great majority of its existence playing chess while their opponents were playing, well, losing basketball.

This is the five we’re going with. Who would you take?

Previous entries: Golden State.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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