The Boston Celtics are one of the most storied franchises in NBA history. With 17 championships under its belt, the most in league history, the collection of Celtics news throughout the years boasts a rich history of superstars in their all-time depth chart that carried them through every decade of its existence. Celtics centers are certainly a part of this conversation.
Among those stars include big men in the middle who manned the paint for them through every era. Here are the top seven centers to ever don the Celtics Green and White:
7. Al Horford
Al Horford‘s time with the Celtics feels like it should have extended past the 2018-19 season. His fit within coach Brad Stevens’ system seemed like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, Horford chose to move on this past summer and signed with the Philadelphia 76ers. Nonetheless, the 6-foot-9 big man still deserves a spot on this list given his successful tenure with the Celtics.
Horford made the postseason in each of his three seasons with the Celtics, including two Eastern Conference Finals appearances. He became an integral part of Stevens’ offense as a big man who can stretch the floor and moved the ball, and at the same time, served as their anchor on the other end.
Horford averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game through his time with the Green Gang.
6. Ed McCauley
Ed McCauley served as Boston’s starting center through the majority of the 1950s. Though he never won a championship with the Celtics, he did make the All-Star team in each of his six seasons with the Celtics.
McCauley also made the playoffs in each of his six years in Boston. Unfortunately, he never made a Finals appearance, with the Eastern Division Finals being the farthest he got to. In his tenure with the Celtics, Easy Ed averaged 18.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists.
Unfortunately for McCauley, perhaps his greatest contribution as a Celtic was being the centerpiece of the package that helped them land the undisputed best center in the franchise’s history (spoiler alert).
5. Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins‘ numbers won’t jump out compared to the rest of the Celtics centers on this list. In fact, they are very pedestrian, to say the least. However, Perkins’ value transcends the stat sheet.
The 6-foot-10 big man is a beloved figure in Boston, especially for the way he played. Fans fell in love with his all-out heart and hustle whenever he stepped foot on the floor. Most importantly, Perkins played a vital role as Boston’s man in the middle in their special championship run in 2008.
Celtics fans and even coach Doc Rivers himself would boast that they have never lost a seven-game series with Perkins active as their starting center. In their heartbreaking 2010 Finals loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Big Perk failed to play in Game 7 after suffering an MCL injury in the previous contest.
4. Kevin Garnett
Some may be surprised to see Kevin Garnett‘s inclusion on this list given he played power forward through the majority of his time with Boston. Nonetheless, it still feels right to give some love to the 2003-04 NBA MVP considering his contributions as a Celtics big man. Though he played the four position through his first four years in Boston, Garnett became their full-time center in his last two seasons the Celtics.
Garnett served as Boston’s defensive anchor as the Celtics squeezed out whatever was left of their championship juices, especially through the 2011-12 season. With the Big Ticket manning the middle, Boston gave the Miami Heat Big 3 all they can handle. In fact, they came so close to knocking off LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, only to fall short in the end. Much of their success had to do with the 35-year old Garnett’s impact defensively as the Celtics’ anchor on defense.
Through his six seasons in Boston, KG averaged 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the field.
3. Dave Cowens
Dave Cowens had an amazing 10-year career with the Celtics through the 1970s that earned him a spot on the basketball Hall of Fame. The 6-foot-9 center did not waste any time establishing his name in the NBA, winning Rookie of the Year honors in the 1970-71 season.
Two years later, he became the MVP of the league. In his 1972-73 MVP campaign, Cowens averaged a career-best 20.5 points and 16.2 rebounds per game. Though he didn’t win the NBA championship in his MVP season, Cowens and the Celtics found redemption the following year after defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in a grueling 7-game series. Cowens won another title with the Celtics in 1976.
Cowens is currently at no. 3 in Boston’s record books in terms of most rebounds in franchise history. He is also ninth in total points, with 13,192 points through his decade-long stint with the Green and White.
2. Robert Parish
Though Larry Bird dominated most Celtics headlines through the 1980s, Robert Parish was a key piece in Boston’s championship teams through the decade. Serving as their defensive anchor, Parish became part of the original Celtics Big Three that included Bird and Kevin McHale.
Parish played 21 seasons and through his 40’s. However, most will remember him for his 18 seasons in Boston, especially as their man in the middle through their glory years, where he won three of his four NBA titles and made the All-Star team nine times, including in seven consecutive seasons.
Parish finished with the second-most rebounds in franchise history and ninth in league history. Likewise, he ended his career as the fourth-leading scorer for the storied Celtics franchise.
1. Bill Russell
Who else should we put here? Tacko Fall, maybe? Eventually?
Kidding aside, nobody should even consider putting anyone above this man if we’re talking about Celtics legends.
With the most championships in NBA history, Bill Russell is arguably the greatest embodiment of winning. Russell was responsible for denying championships to many of the stars in the 1960s, having won 11 championships in his career, including eight straight from 1959 to 1966.
A 6-foot-10 freak athlete, Russell finished his Hall of Fame career with the second most total rebounds in league history. And though blocks weren’t officially tallied until the 1973-74 season, Russell could very well likely be the all-time leader in swats had they already been recorded during his time.
Russell finished his career averaging more rebounds (22.5) than points (15.1). While scoring is the name of the game, the 5-time league MVP proved that, through his play, that defense wins championships. 11 of them, in fact.