No one could argue about the notion of the Boston Celtics being one of the most storied franchises in the history of the NBA. Having won no less than a record 17 championships to their name, the C’s are officially the most successful NBA franchise of all-time.
Nevertheless, despite all the unforgettable highs, this team — like any other side in the league — has also had its fair share of tragic occurrences in its esteemed narrative.
The End of the 2000’s Big 3 Era
When the Celtics selected Paul Pierce 10th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft, it was the beginning of a new era for the C’s. However, it arguably wasn’t until nearly a decade later that Boston became a legitimate threat to the title when Kevin Garnett arrived in 2007. True enough, this duo, alongside the likes of Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, would finally lift the title after 22 long years. The cherry on top of the cake was they did so by defeating their age-old rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals.
This was arguably the most formidable team the Celtics have fielded in recent memory, but sadly, it all came to an end in the summer of 2013. Both Pierce and Garnett jumped ship, with Boston trading them away to the Brooklyn Nets. This was officially the end of the Big 3 era (although Ray Allen had already left the previous year), and with long-time head coach Doc Rivers also taking his talents to the Los Angeles Clippers, this also marked the the beginning of the rebuild.
THAT Magic John Running Hook
Few other moments in Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson’s career is more iconic than his unforgettable running hook that sealed the fate of the Celtics in the 1987 NBA Finals. There’s no need to talk up the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, but it was perhaps int he 1980’s that this was at its peak. Moreover, this was a decade defined between the personal rivalry between Magic Johnson and all-time Celtics great Larry Bird.
After going 2-0 down in the Finals, Boston was able to extend the series to Game 6 after impressively winning Games 3 and 5. In one of the most painful moments in Celtics history, however, Johnson’s game-winning hook shot with just seconds left — in Boston’s home floor — would result in the Lakers celebrating their championship over their arch-rivals.
The Death of Len Bias
Len Bias had the world at his feet. Following a decorated career in Maryland, the 6-foot-9 forward was widely regarded as one of the best young prospects of his generation. He was selected second overall by the Celtics in 1986, who were coming off another championship. Nonetheless, Bird was already entering his 30’s and Boston were already beginning their search for his heir apparent. Bias definitely fit the bill, and many believed that the torch was going to be passed to him in a few years’ time.
Tragically, barely two days after being drafted, Bias died of a cocaine overdose. He never got a chance to meet his new teammates, much more dawn the famous Celtics green. Bias is the perfect case of what could have been, and to date, there is perhaps nothing more terrible in Boston’s history than this tragic turn of events.