We’re officially in the NBA dead season. For the time being, there are no trades to be made, no dramatic shakeups to rattle the league’s core, and worst of all, no actual games to be played. In times like these, we have only one choice: Argue about really dumb, inconsequential stuff while we sit around waiting for the season to start.
The following is inconsequential, but it is certainly not dumb. I’ve gone ahead and constructed a roster of the best Celtics players with two first names. You’re welcome in advance.
What’s The Criteria? Did the player in question play in a Celtics uniform? Did that player have two first names? Was that player both good, and does he fit into a loosely constructed roster format? If the answer to all of those questions is yes, that player will likely be featured in this post.
Will There Be Videos? You better believe it.
Why Didn’t Vitaly Potepenko Make The Team? To the best of my knowledge “Potepenko” is not a first name. I promise that, and that alone, is the only reason.
Late Cut – Al Jefferson
This roster is only 8 spots, so that means some tough calls have to be made. Unfortunately, that means Big Al narrowly misses the cut. Jefferson was one of the last players to go straight from high school to the NBA, and his inexperience showed early on. Jefferson started only 8 games during his first two seasons. In 2007, however, he made a leap. Jefferson averaged 16 PPG and 11 RPG on 51.4% shooting, displaying enough promise to make himself the centerpiece of the Kevin Garnett trade that summer.
Backup Wing – Don Nelson
That’s right, the guy behind Nellie Ball was a key cog on five Celtics championship teams. Statistically, Nelson was unspectacular. Across 11 seasons with Boston, he averaged only 11-5-2 on 48% shooting in 21.8 MPG.
However, he also had one of the great moments of the late Russell-Era Celtics. Down the stretch in Game 7 of the ’69 Finals, Nelson scooped up a loose ball at the foul line. He released a high-arching jumper that bounced straight off the back iron, before dropping directly down through the rim as the shot clock expired. The shot pushed the Celtics’ lead to 105-102 with a minute and a half to play, giving just enough cushion for the C’s to clinch their 11th NBA title in 13 years.
Plus, he’s gone full Cool Grandpa on us all. Everyone needs a glue guy like that coming off the bench.
Backup Guard – Nate “Tiny” Archibald
Archibald is a forgotten legend from a forgotten era. “Tiny” played from 1972-77, averaging an impressive 27-3-9 on 47% shooting en route to three All-Star selections. He became the first (and only) player to lead the league in both assists per game and points per game in ’73, when his 34 PPG and 11.4 APG set the pace for the rest of the NBA.
An achilles injury caused him to miss the entire ’78 season. This injury led to his signing with the Celtics. Archibald’s numbers weren’t as gaudy in Boston as they were during his prime, but his efforts as a floor general and steady secondary creator alongside a precocious Larry Bird earned him three more All-Star honors from 1980-82, and an NBA title in 1981.
Backup Big – Bill Walton
It’s only fitting that the 6th man of this crew is Hall of Fame center Bill Walton. Okay, I took some liberties here (“Walton” isn’t exactly a common first name unless you’re the vice principal of North Jackson High School), but as the self-appointed arbiter of this list, I’ll allow it. The C’s snatched up Walton after the ’85 season, when foot and ankle injuries had all but derailed his career.
The former UCLA standout had an immediate impact: His unselfish play meshed seamlessly with Bird’s Celtics, already a team known for their passing and ball movement. The result? Walton was named 6th Man of the Year in 1986, as Boston sliced through the rest of the NBA en route to 68 wins and a title.
Starting Guard – Isaiah Thomas
It’s easy to lose sight of just how good Thomas was during his time in Boston, given the way things ended. The Celtics acquired him at the trade deadline in 2015, and promptly won 20 of their final 30 games to sneak into the playoffs as the 8 seed. IT was the spark, and after leading the Celtics back to the postseason in 2016, he lost his damn mind in 2017.
Thomas was a killer that season. He averaged 29-3-6 on 46/38/91 shooting, with the bulk of that production coming when it mattered most. He scored 20+ points in 43 straight games (a Celtics record), and averaged 9.8 points in the 4th quarter (2nd best in the NBA). The above video was arguably his greatest moment: dropping 53 points against the Wizards in the ECSF on his sister’s birthday, just days after her death. It’s hard to believe that he would be traded less than 4 months later.
Starting Guard – Ray Allen
I specifically remember being confused when the Celtics traded for Allen during the 2007 NBA Draft. At the time, pairing a 31 year old shooting guard with a 30 year old Paul Pierce and Al Jefferson seemed like a one-way ticket to 43 wins and NBA purgatory. Of course, little did I know a Kevin Garnett-sized shoe was about to drop, and the next great era of Celtics’ basketball was about about to begin.
Garnett was the heart and soul of those Celtics teams. Pierce was the captain. But Allen was the most consistent, and most deadly. Jesus Shuttlesworth averaged 17-3-3 on 47/40/91 shooting from 2008-11, with more clutch shots and game winners than I can count. He also has the two most iconic shots from the 2008 Finals, both from Game 4’s dramatic road comeback. There was the above triple-clutch reverse layup, and then the game-clinching blow-by of Sasha Vujacic.
Like Thomas, things ended on a sour note with the Boston brass. However, Allen was vital to the Celtic’s last championship run, and to restoring the franchise to their former glory.
Starting Forward – Reggie Lewis
Lewis’ story ended in tragedy, a life lost far too soon. While he was healthy and able to compete on an NBA court, however, he was one of the game’s best two way players, an All-Star just hitting his prime. Lewis only played in 49 games (and 405 minutes) in his rookie season. Then, from 1989-93, he blossomed. Lewis averaged 19-5-2 over that 5 season stretch, and was an All-Star in 1992.
He was notorious for giving Michael Jordan fits (at least as much as any other player was able to), even blocking him 4 times in one game. The Celtics, in the wake of Len Bias’ death in 1986 and with Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish aging quickly, needed a new, young star to carry the franchise’s success into a new decade. Lewis seemed primed to be a key part of that next Celtics generation. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be.
Starting Forward – Cedric Maxwell
Before the decisive Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals, Maxwell reportedly told his Celtics teammates “Hop on my back boys, I’ll carry you home.” Cornbread put his money where his mouth was, scoring 24 points, along with 8 boards and 8 assists, to lead the Celtics to their 15th title. Maxwell earned his second ring with the franchise and cemented himself as a Celtics legend, after winning the Finals MVP in 1981.
Of course, it helps that in addition to his stellar work as a starter on those early 80s Celtics teams, Maxwell had (and continues to have) such a colorful personality. Listen to any Celtics radio broadcast and you’re sure to get a good quote or five. Here’s one from last December, at the expense of 2018 MVP James Harden. And, in case you were worried this was a new development, check out his speech from Larry Legend’s retirement ceremony in 1993. Simply put, Max is the best.
Starting Center – Bill Russell
Look, if you made it this far I probably don’t need to run down Bill Freakin’ Russell’s list of accomplishments. 11 titles in 13 years. Never lost a Game 7. A 5-time MVP, 12-time All-Star, and 12-time All NBA selectee. And that’s just scratching the very surface. He was beloved by coaches and teammates, and his contributions go beyond the court. He was a Civil Rights activist, and is one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. How could I have chosen any other Celtics’ center with two first names, two last names, or no names at all for this honor?
I also just wanted an excuse to show off this video:
If that wasn’t enough, there’s this classic commercial that, thanks to the mighty and glorious internet, is forever immortalized:
Need I say more?
Coach – Brad Stevens
Nothing but respect for my GOAT.