Celtics vs. Knicks, 1972
Congratulations to Hall of Fame inductee Don Nelson, 5x Champion with the Boston Celtics and the NBA’s all-time winningest coach
Here’s Red Auerbach treating his players to beer. The league was a lot different back in the day. Unless you’re Vin Baker or Keon Clark.*
*Some NBA heads might know what I’m talking about (Vin’s story about mouthwash is in my all-time pantheon for destructive behavior by a professional athlete).
video via BDL
Don Nelson sinks a layup during a 1967 Boston-Philadelphia game. Nelson spent 11 seasons with the Celtics and won five championship titles between 1966 and 1976. (Dick Raphael/Getty Images)
So does the current group hold its own with any of the great Celtics teams? Absolutely. In fact it matches up position-by-position with one about as closely as any two teams could - the Celtics squad that won the crown in 1974 and ‘76. Consider the following.
The heart and soul of the 1970s championship teams was Dave Cowens, a mobile big man who was unselfish on offense, seemingly everywhere on defense and as intense on both ends of the court as anyone who ever played. Clearly the best player on his team, Cowens wasn’t the leading scorer or captain on those title squads, yet he was the emotional leader, both on the floor and in the locker room—all traits also displayed by Garnett.
Both athletic big men had their bodyguards on the court as well. Paul Silas and Perkins each served as quiet enforcers, doing the dirty work in the paint, helping to alleviate pressure on their more high-profile teammate, thus enabling him to roam to the perimeter on defense, all while putting up solid rebounding numbers.
The small forward, captain and leading scorer of his squad, Havlicek established the role played by Pierce. Both were good rebounders, contributed more assists than expected from a team’s leading scorer and would, on occasion, swing into the backcourt.
The backcourts are strikingly similar too. Like Allen, JoJo White, who played for the Celtics from 1969 through ‘79, appeared to do everything effortlessly on the floor and was a dead-eye free throw shooter who after being a 20-point-per-game scorer settled into a complementary role on offense for the good of the team. His backcourtmate, starting point guard Don Chaney, was a model for current counterpart Rondo, an excellent defender who deferred offensively but made nearly 50% of the shots he took.
Even off the bench the teams are alike. Looking for a clamp-down veteran defender with extensive playoff experience who can handle both forward spots? Don Nelson, meet James Posey. How about a cagey veteran rebounder called on for his savvy in key situations? Satch Sanders, meet P.J. Brown. An athletic guard with loads of potential? In the 1970s it was Paul Westphal, in 2007-08 it was Tony Allen. You can even go as far as calling benchwarmers Brian Scalabrine and Scot Pollard merely the modern-day versions of Steve Kuberski and Hank Finkel.
Those Celtics teams of the 1970s won two titles and overall had five outstanding years. With one title already, after just a season together, and with so many parallels, Garnett, Pierce, Allen & Co. appear likely to contribute another trophy or two to the mantle of the NBA’s proudest franchise."