It’s fair to say that inconsistent play in the NBA Finals saw the Golden State Warriors inadvertently help the Celtics near a record-breaking 18th NBA championship.
It’s also fair to say that Boston gets help from Bay Area folks when it’s most needed, it’s just that history is repeating itself. Again.
There’s a ton of evidence that the Celtics didn’t become the most iconic franchise in NBA history of their own accord. Whenever the Celtics needed a helping hand over the years, the Warriors and the Bay Area have always been there for them.
Search for the roots of each of the Celtics’ record-breaking 17 NBA championship trophies, and you’ll find that they run deep here in the Bay Area.
Everyone. Single. one.
From Bill Russell, KC Jones, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Paul Silas, Paul Pierce and even Larry Bird, these great Celtics all came on the way – or on the way – from our bay to the back bay to collect championships.
Legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach isn’t just known for chewing victory cigars. He was the architect of 16 of Boston’s championships.
“There’s a correlation between all these players – they’re great guys. Red brought people with him who he thought would suit the Celtics,” said Garry St. Jean, a former Warriors coach and general manager.
Here’s how the aforementioned elite Celtics contributed to all of those green-and-white championship banners in the rafters of TD Garden:
Track #1-11: Russell’s fingerprints were all over the Celtics’ first 11 title trophies. The former star of McClymonds High of Oakland and the University of San Francisco established himself as perhaps the game’s greatest player upon his arrival in 1956. (We’ll explain later how the Ice Capades—yes, the Ice Capades—helped the Celtics bring Russell in.) Jones, his USF teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, also played a major role in eight of those consecutive championships (1959-66).
Track #12-13: Silas was another McClymonds defensive All-Star coming in a trade from Phoenix. The Suns lost a lot of defensive tenacity and watched as Silas helped bring two more titles to Boston in 1974 and 1976.
Track #14-16: Parish and McHale arrived in Boston courtesy of the Warriors in one of the biggest NBA trade heists of all time. Together they have teamed with Bird for three championships (1981, ’84 and ’86). Boston’s coach for the title runs in ’84 and ’86? None other than KC Jones.
The Warriors also played a role in Bird’s move to Boston, as they decided to pick Bird in 1978 — and missing him a year to finish his game at Indiana State was too risky — opting for the safer choice, Draw Purvis Short.
Title #17: The 2008 championship year was a throwback to the No. 1 title almost 50 years ago – one of Boston’s big stars was a native of Oakland. Pierce was born in Oakland before his family moved to Inglewood. More local influence came in 2008 from a couple of benchers: Hayward High’s Eddie House and Oakland Tech’s Leon Powe.
St. Jean, the Warriors’ GM in 1998, admits he should have brought Pierce back to Oakland. But they brought in Antawn Jamison with the No. 4, making Pierce the No. 10 for Boston, where he was the 2008 Finals MVP.
“I loved Paul Pierce, but I ended up listening to my Boy Scouts,” St. Jean said during a phone interview Thursday. “I remember interviewing Paul and he said, ‘I’d like to play here.’ … We should have picked Pierce.”
Title #18? If the Warriors lose that streak next week, Boston’s potential record 18th NBA title would feature another Bay Area twist — star swingman Jaylen Brown was a former star at Cal. Don’t forget that coach Ime Udoka would become the second former USF player alongside Jones to coach a title-winning team in Boston.
If you’re still looking for a blueprint for Boston’s achievements over the decades (Bay Area connections aside), try focusing on its trading history. The Celtics’ ability to assemble elite teams through unilateral deals has been part of the team’s history, as has their storied hardwood floor.
Trades don’t get any more one-sided than the one the Celtics pulled off prior to the 1956 draft, when they dealt two players for St. Louis’ second overall pick and then made an offer to financially strapped Rochester, who had the No. 1 could not refuse. According to the story, Boston owner Walter Brown, who was also a part owner of the profitable Ice Capades, guaranteed Rochester’s owner that he would make sure the ice skating show came to his arena for two weeks every winter — as long as Rochester did. do not choose Russell.
It was the kind of smart move St. Jean loved growing up as a Celtics fanatic in Chicopee, Massachusetts. But as an NBA coach and GM, he knew better than to grapple with Boston.
“You didn’t want to call Boston, and when Red called the office, it was like, ‘God, what the hell does he want now?’ said St. Jean.
Auerbach saved the second biggest heist of his career for the Warriors. In 1980, he gave the Warriors No. 1 and 13 picks — who became Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown — for Parish and the No. 3 pick (Kevin McHale), two guys who would go on to Hall of Fame careers.
“That trade sure gave the Celtics one of the greatest trios of all time, didn’t it?” Longtime Warriors analyst Jim Barnett said on Friday, the 42nd anniversary of Golden State’s fateful trade.
Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli didn’t have the financial resources to keep talent, as he showed when he allowed future Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry (twice), Nate Thurmond, Bernard King and Jamaal Wilkes to leave because he couldn’t afford it. Parish, a year away from restricted agency, wanted to be the next man in town. Auerbach made sure that happened and changed the fortunes of the two franchises for decades.
Well, just because the Celtics had money to spend didn’t mean Auerbach was willing to spend it. Barnett, 1966 Boston’s No. 1 pick (eighth overall), was a bit more pointed about the old man’s ways.
“Red was the cheapest SOB in basketball history, and you can quote me on that,” Barnett said, adding that he was once chewed by Auerbach for “overtipping” a cab driver — it was 1 dollars on top of that a fare of $6.50.
Barnett vividly recalls an intimidating meeting with Auerbach in his office to discuss his first contract.
Curiously, Auerbach began by reading aloud a letter from Boston’s second-round election adviser Leon Clark. Auerbach scoffed at Clark’s request for a two-year, $40,000 contract, tore up the letter, and tossed it in the trash.
Auerbach then turned to a cowed Barnett, looked him in the eye and said, “What we had in mind for you is…”
Barnett didn’t wait for Auerbach to finish his sentence, but blurted out, “I’ll take it.”
In doing so, Barnett became the lowest-paid first-round draft pick in the NBA that year on a below-market contract of $11,000.
“You didn’t play for money back then,” Barnett said. “The most important thing was that you got to play in the NBA, which you dreamed of as a kid.”