No team in league history has more NBA championships than the Boston Celtics. And as 17-time champs, it only makes sense that Boston has fielded some pretty great teams throughout the years. However, while there have been a lot of great iterations, here are the Celtics squads that stand the test of time as the best of the best.
In this post, we’re going to look at the five greatest Celtics teams in franchise history. Obviously, given how many great teams the franchise has, it’s going to be truly subjective. Moreover, while this isn’t real-time Boston news or anything, it’s always good to look back at the team’s lore.
How did the team that won the most (regular season) games in team history end up fifth on the list? Because, despite going an impressive 68-14 in the regular season, the ’73 Celtics are the only team on this list to not win it all.
Though this team lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the New York Knicks, they still featured a dominant All-Star trio of John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and Jo Jo White while adding major contributors such as Paul Silas, Don Chaney and Don Nelson to the bunch.
It had been four seasons since the Celtics won a championship. That changed in 1981 when Boston went 62-20 under second-year head coach Bill Fitch. The 1980-81 season was the beginning of a dominant stretch for Boston.
This team was led by Larry Bird in only his second year, Robert Parish, Cedric Maxwell, Tiny Archibald at point guard, Chris Ford and a rookie Kevin McHale.
3. 1964-65 Celtics
The middle of a stretch where the Celtics won 11 titles in 13 seasons, the 1965 Celtics were loaded with Hall of Fame talent, most of whom were in their primes.
The season’s MVP, Bill Russell, anchored the middle for Boston while Sam Jones and John Havlicek combined for over 44 points per game. Add in Hall of Famers Satch Sanders, K.C. Jones and Tommy Heinsohn and it made for quite the team.
The 2007-08 Celtics came just short of being the best group in franchise history. Nonetheless, this iteration of the Celtics is undoubtedly one of the best teams in basketball history.
In the first season of the newly-formed “Big 3” of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics went 66-16 and beat the Los Angeles Lakers by 39 points in game six of the 2008 Finals to win the team’s first championship since 1986.
Other than Garnett (who won Defensive Player of the Year), Pierce and Allen, Boston also had defensive anchor Kendrick Perkins, a young, emerging Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, James Posey, Eddie House and Leon Powe. Most of these players, save for two of three of the Big 3, were homegrown talent the Celtics selected in different versions of the NBA Draft.
1. 1985-86 Celtics
Widely considered to be one of the best teams in NBA history, the ’86 Celtics were a dominant force. After losing in the finals to the Lakers in the Finals the year before, Boston added former MVP but often-injured (and older) Bill Walton to serve as the team’s sixth man.
The gamble paid off and Walton was exactly what the team needed as the league’s Sixth-Man of the Year.
Add Walton to a prime-era Bird and McHale along with an underrated Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Scott Wedman and newly-acquired point guard Jerry Sichting and this was one of the most complete teams in league history.
That year, the Celtics would coast through the postseason with a 15-3 record, only losing once before their NBA Finals matchup with the Houston Rockets in which they won in six games.