Recap - 1990s

Season Recaps - 1990s

1992: A Legend Retires

After playing for the United States Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, Larry Bird finally succumbed to his back problems and retired just before the 1992-93 season. One of the greatest careers in NBA history had come to a close. In his 13 seasons, Bird had scored 21,791 points and had earned three Most Valuable Player Awards, three NBA championships, 12 All-Star selections, nine All-NBA First Team selections, and the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

More importantly, Bird had fanned the flames of a cross-country rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics that boosted the NBA's popularity. The three NBA Finals battles between Bird's Celtics and Magic Johnson's Lakers will be remembered as among the greatest championship series ever played. Bird's all-around talents, clutch play, and ability to inspire the players around him were considered by many to be unsurpassed in NBA history.

1992-93: Disappointment On The Court, Tragedy Off Of It

Prior to the 1992-93 season the Celtics picked up Xavier McDaniel as a free agent from New York. But with Bird gone, Robert Parish nearly 40 years old, and 35-year-old Kevin McHale playing on sore ankles, it looked like a long season for the club. The team started slowly, dropping 8 of its first 10 games. A loss in the final contest of 1992 gave the Celtics a 12-17 record. After the new year, however, they played inspired basketball, going 36-17 the rest of the way to finish with a 48-34 record, a remarkable performance given the circumstances.

The playoffs, however, were a disappointment. The Celtics faced the Charlotte Hornets, the second of the four recent expansion teams to make the playoffs, and the Hornets eliminated Boston in four games. In Game 1 of the series Reggie Lewis collapsed on the court. He was later diagnosed with arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat), a condition that brought tragic results in the offseason. On July 27, 1993, while shooting baskets at Brandeis University in Boston, the 27-year-old Lewis collapsed again. He was found by paramedics in complete cardiac arrest and died shortly thereafter.

1993-94: A Steep Decline

Reggie Lewis's death and the retirement of Kevin McHale led to the Celtics' worst season since 1978-79, the year before Larry Bird's debut in the NBA. The 1993-94 Celtics finished 32-50 and out of the playoffs.

Rookie Dino Radja offered some promise. The 6-11 forward from Croatia ranked second on the team in scoring (15.1 ppg) and earned a berth on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. He became the sixth rookie in Celtics history to amass 1,000 points, joining Bird, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Dave Cowens, and John Havlicek. Dee Brown led Boston with 15.5 points per game, and Sherman Douglas ranked seventh in the league in assists with 8.8 per game.

The offseason brought the end of an era when Robert Parish left the team to sign with the Charlotte Hornets as a free agent. Parish was the last remaining member of the Celtics' 1986 championship team. Boston did some maneuvering of its own, naming former Celtics player M. L. Carr as general manager and signing free agents Dominique Wilkins and Pervis Ellison prior to the 1994-95 season.

1994-95: Garden Era Ends In Boston

In their final season at Boston Garden, the Celtics went on a season-ending tear to grab the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston eventually lost to the Orlando Magic in four games in the first round of the playoffs. Despite making it into the postseason, Boston finished the regular season at 35-47 and 22 games out of first place.

The 1994-95 campaign may have been the year that Boston's young backcourt came of age. Sherman Douglas missed 17 games with an injury but played well in the season's second half, finishing with averages of 14.7 points and 6.9 assists per game. Guard Dee Brown put up career numbers, averaging 15.6 points while playing more minutes than any Celtics teammate.

First-round draft choice Eric Montross acquitted himself well, earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. The ninth overall selection in the 1994 NBA Draft, Montross started at center and averaged 10.0 points and 7.3 rebounds for the season. He shot .534 from the floor to rank 13th in the league and tops among first-year players. The Celtics also received big performances from forwards Dominique Wilkins (17.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Dino Radja (17.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg). Wilkins, who came into the season with a career average of 26.5 points per game, posted his lowest scoring numbers to date.

At season's end the Celtics relieved Chris Ford of his coaching duties. In five years at the helm, Ford had compiled a 222-188 record.

1995-96: Celtics Struggles Continue

The Celtics started 1995-96 with a new coach (former player M.L. Carr) and a new home (the brand new FleetCenter). On the court, though, it was pretty much the same old story as the Celtics compiled their third straight losing season. It marked the first time since 1946-50 that the Celtics had suffered as many as three consecutive losing seasons.

They did have some highlights on the way to a 33-49 season. In December, the Celtics reeled off six straight wins, and on April 4, Boston overcame a 19-point deficit to upset the Magic in Orlando, 100-98. That snapped the Magic's string of 51 straight wins at home against Eastern Conference opponents.

Individual highlights included an NBA record by guard Dana Barros, who sank at least one three-point field goal in 89 straight games before the New York Knicks stopped him on January 12. Dino Radja was the most prolific Celtic, averaging 19.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest before his season was cut short by an ankle sprain on February 28 vs. Charlotte.

Guard David Wesley picked up the late-season scoring slack, averaging 18.1 points in March and leading Boston to an 8-8 record, its first .500 month of the season. Eric Williams, showed promise in his rookie season, averaging 10.7 ppg and earning a berth in the Rookie Game at All-Star Weekend.