Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Celtic Team for a New Generation

Bob Ryan wrote a great piece on the cover of today's Boston Globe entitled "Greatest of the Green". He notes that since it's been 22 years since the last Celtics championship, there's literally a whole generation who don't lay claim to the rich history of Celtics lore. Ryan starts:

This was a championship for a Lost Generation of Boston Celtics fans.

These are people for whom Bill Russell, the greatest winner in American team sports, and Bob Cousy, the legendary "Houdini of the Hardwood," are like figures out of King Arthur's tales. These are people for whom John Havlicek, basketball's consummate 'sixth man," and Dave Cowens, the mercurial redheaded center, are as personally relevant as comic book characters. These are people for whom even the great Larry Bird is just some guy wearing short-shorts who pops up occasionally on ESPN Classic.

These are the people who text instant observations to friends in Singapore. And these are the people who hungered for a Celtics championship they could call their own, one accomplished in their building with their heroes. Celtics championship No. 17 belongs to them.

It's really a great point. Now I remember the Celtics of the 80's with Bird, McHale and Parrish. Of course I was living in New York and rooting for the Knicks, but I remember them well. But I didn't really have a real appreciation of the great Celtics teams that came before them.

In Ryan's article he lists the Top 10 Celtics teams of all time and ranks this years' team #2. But in reading through the article, the write up on the '56-57 Celtics (ranked #8) blew my mind:
"Red Auerbach's personal favorite title, simply because it was the first. Rookies Russell (25 points, 32 rebounds) and Tom Heinsohn (37 points, 23 rebounds) carried the team to an epic double-overtime seventh game victory over the St. Louis Hawks. Many old-timey Celtics fans went to their graves swearing this was the greatest game they'd ever seen."

The combined 55 rebounds by Russell and Heinsohn (who I mostly know as the Celtics bumbling announcer and world-class homer) are more than the ENTIRE Celtics team had in any game in the playoffs...and that was just from 2 guys. It really goes to show how even current basketball junkies like me don't truly have the perspective of the rich history of the game. It's that same worship of today's players that skew our view of history. I mean even this week it looks like people finally put aside the myth that Kobe was the new Jordan and those guys played at the same time, ableit at different ends of their careers. But if you can't have perspective within a decade, it's no wonder that so many discount the accomplishments of those that played before we were even born. But it's wrong just the same.

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