The Boston Celtics have had 25 players elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, including eight members of this 1963 championship team, and that doesn't even include current stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The team has retired 21 numbers. So choosing the top five Celtics is a little tougher than picking, say, the top five Charlotte Bobcats. We did it based on their accomplishments in Boston, so guys like Shaquille O'Neal and Dominique Wilkins don't count. Ultimately, the top four are pretty clear. The fifth spot is a tough call. Check out our choices.
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Only John Havlicek has scored more points in a Celtics uniform than Pierce, but for most of his career it was difficult to compare "The Truth" to past Boston greats who had better teammates and multiple championships. Then Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came along, and Pierce proved he wasn't just a prolific scorer on bad teams with his Finals MVP performance in 2007-08. A 10-time All-Star, Pierce is still winning and playing at an elite level. He's a great player, and that's the truth.
Honorable mention: Dave Cowens, Sam Jones, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish.
"The Houdini of the Hardwood" was the slickest ball-handler and passer of his generation. While Bill Russell was the anchor of the Celtics dynasty of the 1950s and '60s, Cousy was the engine, relentlessly pushing the tempo and setting up his Hall of Fame teammates. Cousy led the league in assists for eight straight years, helped the Celtics win six titles and even was chosen the MVP in 1956-57.
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Fans outside Boston might not fully appreciate Havlicek because he was an unspectacular player who often was overshadowed by teammates Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. But Havlicek's tenacious defense, relentless energy and competitive intensity played a huge role in eight Celtics titles. A 13-time All-Star, Hondo is the franchise leader in games and points. Russell summed it up best: "He is the best all-around player I ever saw."
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Bird didn't just bring back Boston's glory days after joining the team in 1979. Along with Magic Johnson, he rejuvenated a league that had suffered from declining attendance and drug scandals in the '70s. Bird won three MVPs and three championships, often battling Magic for both trophies. One of the greatest shooters in NBA history, Bird was an underrated passer, rebounder and defender. By the time he was done, only one Celtic had done it better.
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Why do coaches always say that defense and rebounding win championships? Because of Russell, whose defense and rebounding produced 11 championships in 13 seasons with the Celtics. To be sure, Russell played on some stacked Boston teams with enough firepower to overcome his limited offensive arsenal. But Russell was the foundation for an incredible run of success unmatched in American professional team sports. He's the ultimate winner and, of course, the ultimate Celtic.
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