The words, "Pride", "Mystique", "Tradition", "Teamwork" and the figure of a pint-sized, winking leprechaun leaning on with one arm his shillelagh and hoisting a basketball on his index finger with the other arm, are a few of the ways that fans have come to know the Boston Celtics throughout the years.
A charter member of the Basketball Association of America (which evolved into the National Basketball Association) since 1946, the Boston Celtics have produced a legacy of success that no other professional sports franchise can match.
A glorious history of 17 world championship titles, unselfish, popular and loyal role players, an outdated building with its unique parquet floor, the plethora of classic, jubilant and memorable regular season and playoff games, and a fiery coach, general manager and president who, with his trademark cigar in his mouth, guided and led the charge, Arnold 'Red' Auerbach, summarizes this franchise.
Walter Brown was the man who was responsible for starting this storied franchise. On an early June day in 1946, Brown, who operated the Boston Garden arena and was part of the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins, was the driving force behind the Basketball Association of America and the Celtics birth. Giving life and meaning is never easy. After four losing seasons, Brown, the gentleman and avid sportsman, would eventually mortgage his own house to save the franchise. His stubbornness and persistence paid off. A transformation from the mundane to the magical would unfold.
Brown's dream of winning the championship started to become a reality in 1950 with his hiring of a 32-year old brash firebrand of a head coach who settled for nothing less than excellence. That head coach was Arnold 'Red' Auerbach.
Walter Brown, the Celtics' first owner.
Photo: Dick Raphael
From 1957 to 1969, Red Auerbach, with no assistant coaches or scouts in that day, created and shaped the Boston Celtics, through timely trades and key draft choices, into a team that dominated a league like no other team has ever come close to. When the team captured eleven NBA Championships during the 13-year span, including eight in succession from 1959 to 1966, the franchise had earned the distinction of, "a dynasty."
Over the next three decades, five more NBA Championship banners would be added and would boldly fly from the Boston Garden (and then the FleetCenter, and now, the TD Banknorth Garden) rafters.
In the remarkable history of the Boston Celtics, the team has won an unprecedented 76 title banners. The 17 NBA World Championship banners, 18 regular season titles, 20 conference titles and 27 division titles. While winning championships was done by the team-concept method, 22 of the Celtics' players and management responsible for those banners have had their uniform number retired to the arena rafters. Furthermore, 31 former Celtics players, management or staff have been deservedly enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.
The Celtics and the city of Boston have also been the hosts to the greatest showcase of professional basketball talent, as the first two NBA All-Star Games were held in Boston in 1951 and 1952. The annual mid-season extravaganza returned twice more to the city in 1957 and 1964.
"The Celtics aren't a team," Red Auerbach once said. "They're a way of life."
The Boston Celtics are an institution. The franchise has been an integral part of American history and basketball lore. The story has been fascinating as the years have unfolded and will continue to develop and flourish season after season for future generations to embrace.