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YesterYears – The History of the Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics have been one of the top NBA Franchises in history with 17 NBA titles. They were founded on June 6, 1946, as a team in the Basketball Association of America.  They became part of the NBA in 1949 and became a threat in the 1950s with the addition of head coach Red Auerbach and point-guard Bob Cousy. The biggest move in the Auerbach era was the drafting of center Bill Russell out of the San Francisco Dons, which led to the most dominant run in the history of NBA teams.

Bill Russell Dynasty Era

Bill Russell - Boston Celtics

During Russell’s first year in 1957, the Celtics won their first title, defeating the St. Louis Hawks in seven games. After losing in the finals the following season, the Celtics added K.C. Jones and went on to win eight consecutive NBA championships, which is still a league record. Auerbach retired as coach following the 1965-1966 season and Russell became player-coach, making him the first African-American to coach a professional sports franchise in the United States. The Celtics won two more titles in 1968 and 1969 before Russell retired.

Havlicek and Cowens to Bird and McHale

Larry Bird Boston CelticsSports Team History

Larry Bird Boston Celtics

Boston struggled in 1970 but added Dave Cowens, Paul Silas, and Jo Jo White to a team that included John Havlicek, who eventually led the franchise to their 12th NBA title in 1974. Their victory over the Bucks gave the Celtics their first title in five years. After another title over the Suns in 1976, the Celtics went on a rebuilding phase and the retirement of Havlicek following the 1977-1978 season.

In 1979, the Celtics drafted Larry Bird, who promptly won NBA Rookie of the Year. The addition of M.L. Carr and Gerald Henderson also helped the Celtics improve by 31 wins and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. Auerbach made more moves, bringing in center Robert Parish via trade and drafter power forward Kevin McHale. The trio of Bird, McHale, and Parish, along with the likes of Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge won three NBA championships.

Bird retired in 1992 after 12 NBA seasons and a gold medal at the Summer Olympics due to back trouble. 

Rebuilding and Resurgence

McHale retired after the 1993 season and Parish signed with the Charlotte Hornets in 1994, ending the Big 3 era. After losing a franchise-record 67 games in 1996 - 1997, the Celtics drafter Antoine Walker, Chauncey Billups, and Ron Mercer. However, it never panned out as Billups was traded during his rookie year and Mercer was in Denver with the Nuggets two years later.

Paul Pierce Boston CelticsSports Team History

Paul Pierce Boston Celtics

The addition of Paul Pierce in the 1998 NBA draft sparked the resurgence of the Celtics. He became a star and was complimented by Walker.  In fact, in 2000-2001 the team surged to the top of the Atlantic Division and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The arrival of new head coach Doc Rivers led the team to their first division title since 1991-1992.  Despite averaging 27 points per game the following season, Pierce and the Celtics won only 33 games. Another rebuilding process took place in 2006 with the selection of Rajon Rondo from the Kentucky Wildcats.  Smart trades by general manager Danny Ainge brought in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, leading them to a 42 game-improvement. Remarkably the Celtic got past the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, and Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs for their 17th NBA championship.  The Celtics reached the NBA finals one more time in the Doc Rivers era, which ended following the 2013 season.

Brad Stevens, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker 

Brad Stevens Boston Celtics Coach

After Rivers departed for the Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics made numerous roster moves and hired former Butler Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens as new head coach. After a mediocre 40-42 record and a first-round exit in the playoffs in Stevens’ second season, the Celtics improved to 48 wins but again fell in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Celtics signed Al Horford in 2016 and won 53 games and a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.  The selection of Jaylen Brown in 2016 and Jayson Tatum in 2017 propelled the Celtics towards the top in the conference. A 55-win season in 2017-2018 put the Celtics on the brink of an NBA Finals appearance, but once again they fell in the conference finals. The past two seasons, the Celtics have been among the top teams but have yet to get over the top, falling short of the NBA finals both years. The Celtics enter the 2020-2021 season as one of the favorites to advance to the NBA Finals.

See the Boston Celtics logo history and team history.

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