Celtics Decade Night: Recapping the 1990s

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90's Night presented by Wellesly Mazda

Friday marks the final of seven Decade Nights that the Boston Celtics will be hosting at TD Garden this season in celebration of theirs and the NBA’s 75th anniversary.

So far, the team has already commemorated the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 2000s, and 2010s. Finally, TD Garden will be turning back the clock to the 1990s when the C’s host the Indiana Pacers for their penultimate home game of the regular season.

Throughout the game, fans will be taken back in time to relive some of the Celtics’ most memorable moments from the ‘90s, many of which we have included in our decade recap below.

Feb. 9, 1991 – Brown Crowned Slam Dunk Champ

In the spring of 1990, the Celtics selected high-flying point guard Dee Brown with the 19th overall pick in the NBA Draft. He went on to play all 82 games the following season, averaging 8.7 points, 4.2 assists, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game, which earned him a spot on the All-Rookie Team.

However, his most memorable achievement took place during the 1991 All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, where he became the first Celtics player to take home the Slam Dunk title.

The 6-foot-1 athletic specimen threw down seven soaring slams across three rounds, never scoring below a 44 out of 50. Five of those dunks scored above 48, including his highest mark of 49.6, which he achieved both on his first dunk of the second round and his final dunk of the competition.

That final dunk was one of the most renowned slams in the contest’s history, as Brown soared through the middle of the paint while shielding his eyes inside the crook of his elbow before flushing it through the net. Gerald Green would later pay homage to the dunk while wearing Brown’s jersey at the 2006 Slam Dunk Contest, which helped him take home the second such title in franchise history.

May 5, 1991 – Bird Breaks Cheekbone Before Lifting C’s into East Semis

Of all the injuries that Larry Bird shook off during his time with the Celtics, there was no greater display of toughness than when he played through a freshly-broken cheekbone in a deciding Game 5 of the 1991 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Indiana.

With the series tied 2-2, Boston was dealt what appeared to be a potential season-ending blow. With just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter, Bird fell and slammed his face on the hardwood and had to be escorted back to the locker room.

"When I hit the floor, I thought I broke my jaw because I couldn't move my mouth," Bird later recalled. "I was in a lot of pain, but I could hear the crowd out there and I thought, 'I can't leave those guys out there all by themselves.'"

Sure enough, Bird emerged from the tunnel partway through the third quarter to a roaring ovation. Boston was trailing by three points late in the period before their wounded warrior helped to kickstart a 32-13 run. Indiana would storm back late in the game to cut its deficit down to three, but Bird’s heroic 32-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist performance was too much to overcome, as the Celtics escaped into the conference semis with a 124-121 win.

March 15, 1992 – Bird Logs C’s Highest-Scoring Triple-Double

Just two months shy of his retirement, Larry Bird turned in perhaps the most impressive well-rounded game of his career, which also happened to be the highest-scoring triple-double in franchise history.

While hosting the Portland Trail Blazers on March 15, 1992, Bird recorded a 49-point, 14, rebound, 12-assist, four-steal performance, while leading Boston to a 152-148 win in double-overtime.

Bird’s most impressive achievement of the night may have been the fact that he played 54 out of a possible 58 minutes despite being 35 years old and dealing with chronic back pain. But on this night, Larry Legend looked like his old youthful self, as he became just the fifth player in NBA history to log a triple-double while scoring at least 49 points.

Spring 1995 – Boston Garden Closes its Doors

The early-to-mid ‘90s marked the end of a Celtics era in more ways than one.

It marked the end of the original Big 3 era, as Larry Bird and Kevin McHale retired in 1992 and 1993 respectively, before Robert Parish left via free agency in 1994. And it also marked the end of the Boston Garden era, as the legendary arena closed its doors for the final time following the 1994-95 season.

The Celtics finished their final campaign inside their old arena with a 35-47 regular-season record before being swept out of the first round by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic. The next fall, Boston opened the brand-new FleetCenter arena, which later became TD Garden.

Jan. 7, 1998 – Walker Scores Career-High 49

The Celtics struggled through the mid-1990s following the Big 3’s disbanding and the tragic death of rising star Reggie Lewis. However, they still had some exciting youngsters that helped to get them through their rebuilding years, including Antoine Walker.

Boston drafted Walker with the sixth pick of the 1996 Draft, and he went on to make the All-Rookie Team after averaging 17.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game as a 20-year-old.

In his second season, he became the youngest All-Star in franchise history, and in the middle of that campaign, he turned in the best game of his career. While taking on the Washington Wizards on Jan. 7, 1998, the 21-year-old erupted for 49 points on 21-of-36 shooting, including a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point range. He became just the fourth player in franchise history to reach such a total in the scoring column, joining Larry Bird, Sam Jones, and Kevin McHale. And he was by far the youngest of the group to do so.

Walker would go on to average 20.6 points per game across eight seasons for the Celtics, earning three All-Star nods along the way.

June 24, 1998 – Celtics Discover The Truth

Walker found his partner in crime during the spring of 1998, when the Celtics selected Paul Pierce with the 10th overall pick of the Draft. The selection turned out to be one of the most pivotal decisions in franchise history, as Pierce would turn into one of the team’s greatest legends of all time.

In his first season, Pierce averaged 16.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.7 steals per game, which earned him an All-Rookie Team selection. That would set the tone for a 15-year tenure with the club, which included 10 All-Star appearances.

Although he and Walker didn’t experience much success at the tail-end of the ‘90s, they would soon rise up and help the Celtics return to relevancy, leading them on a couple of deep playoff runs in the early 2000s. As he emerged into stardom, Pierce earned his renowned nickname, “The Truth,” coined by Shaquille O’Neal.

Eventually, Pierce would help lure Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to Boston in the summer of 2007, helping the Celtics to form a new Big 3, which would go on to win a championship the following season.

The Hall-of-Fame forward would finish his Celtics career as the second all-time leading scorer behind John Havlicek and was one of three players to finish among the top 10 in career points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks along with Larry Bird and Dave Cowens.