Don Nelson - #19 - Boston Celtics
Forward | 6'6" | 210 lbs. | Born: May 15, 1940
- No. 19 retired by the Celtics
- Five-time NBA champion
- Three-time NBA Coach of the Year
- NBA's all-time leader in coaching victories
Signed as a free agent with the Boston Celtics on Oct. 28, 1965.
Don Nelson - Biography
Most NBA fans know Don Nelson for his unparalleled coaching career, but Celtics fans in particular remember his glory days in a jersey from 1965-76.
Nelson ditched the Los Angeles Lakers after two seasons to sign with the hated Boston Celtics on Oct. 28, 1965. He penned his name onto the contract just six months after Boston defeated Los Angeles 4-1 in the 1965 NBA Finals. The move is one that turned Nelson into a key player for the NBA’s best team.
Prior to joining the Celtics, Nelson had never averaged more than 6.8 PPG or 4.5 RPG in any of his three NBA seasons with the Lakers and Chicago Zephyrs. That all changed in Boston, as he had a double-digit scoring average in 11 of his 13 seasons with the C’s. He also averaged 5.2 RPG during those 13 seasons.
Those types of statistical inclines are possible when you’re playing alongside legends like John Havlicek, Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones and more. With such a stacked roster for so many years, Nelson turned himself into a legend as well thanks to five championship rings.
The first of those five rings arrived in 1966 in Nelson’s first season with the Celtics. Ironically, the 4-3 series victory came against the team Nelson spurned in free agency the prior offseason, the Lakers. He averaged 8.4 PPG and 5.0 RPG while coming off the bench to help the C’s take home their ninth World Championship.
After a brief lapse in 1967, Nelson and the Celtics returned to the top by winning both the 1968 and 1969 NBA titles. Nelson’s postseason statistics were very strong during those two title runs. He averaged 12.5 PG and 6.1 RPG during those two postseasons.
Another banner was raised for the Celtics when they won the 1974 championship, and then they won another in 1976, Nelson’s final season as a player. He had a handful of NBA championship rings before he knew it and provided himself the opportunity to go out on top as a winner.
As everyone in Boston knows, if you’re a key contributor to several titles for the Celtics, you’re likely to have your number retired shortly after you hang up your sneakers. That’s exactly what happened for Nelson in 1978, when the team added his No. 19 jersey to the growing list of legends in the Celtics organization.
It didn’t take long for Nelson to turn his playing success into coaching success. He transitioned beautifully into the coaching and general manager professions in the very first season following his retirement from playing. The Milwaukee Bucks hired him as head coach for the 1976-77 season and Nelson turned them from a 27-win team that season into a 60-win team in 1980-81.
His initial success was a sign of things to come. He would go on to coach 31 seasons in the NBA with just five teams, an incredibly low number considering the longevity of his career. He accrued 1,335 wins during those 31 seasons to become the NBA’s all-time leader in wins as coach. His teams finished with at least 50 wins in nearly half (13) of his 31 seasons.
Nelson’s final season of coaching was in 2009-10 with the Golden State Warriors. He joined the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach as part of the 2012 class of inductees.
Height: 6'6" Weight: 210 LBS Birth: 05/15/40 College: IOWA '62
Signed as a free agent on October 28, 1965... retired in 1976.