By the Numbers: Top Celtics of All Time

What’s the toughest thing for a player to do when he joins the Boston Celtics? Pick a number.

The Celtics have retired 21 numbers since their inception in 1946. As you may surmise, a lot of great players have walked through their doors. That includes players who haven’t had their number retired by the Celtics, which brings us to the premise of this series.

We’re taking a look at every number that has either been retired by the team or donned by one of its players, then we’re selecting the greatest Celtic who has worn each number. The series consists of six installments. This edition takes a look at Nos. 1-10.

No. 1 – Walter Brown

Walter Brown is the father of the Boston Celtics. He gave birth to the franchise in 1946 and acted as owner of the team until his death on Sept. 7, 1964. Following his death, Brown’s wife, Marjorie, served as owner for one season before selling the team. Boston claimed its first four NBA championships during his ownership reign. The Celtics retired the No. 1 jersey in his honor on Oct. 17, 1964.

Other considerations: None

No. 2 – Red Auerbach

Brown may be referred to as the father of the Celtics, but Red Auerbach is the true Godfather of this franchise. Auerbach joined the franchise in 1950 and served in numerous roles, including head coach and president, until his passing on Oct. 26, 2006. The Celtics raised the No. 2 jersey into the rafters on Jan. 4, 1985, in honor of Auerbach’s contributions to the franchise.

Auerbach was the main architect of Boston’s roster during his 56 years with the team. His coaching and impressive personnel decisions led to the Celtics’ first 16 NBA championships, including eight consecutive titles from 1959-66.

Other considerations: None

No. 3 – Dennis Johnson

The man known as DJ, Dennis Johnson, is the greatest Celtic to ever wear No. 3. Boston acquired Johnson from the Suns on June 27, 1983, and he played with the franchise until he retired in 1990. During that timespan, he averaged 12.6 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game and 6.4 assists per game while helping the Celtics win two titles. His No. 3 jersey was retired on Dec. 13, 1991. Larry Bird later called Johnson the best teammate he ever had.

Other considerations: None

No. 4 – Sherman Douglas

Most Celtics fans will remember Sherman Douglas for wearing No. 20, and that’s because he wore that number for four of his five seasons with the team. However, when he was acquired from the Heat on Jan. 10, 1992, he chose No. 4 to adorn his first jersey with the team.

The best seasons of Douglas’ 12-year career took place in a Celtics uniform. He averaged 11.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG and 7.9 APG during his tenure in Boston. He averaged a career-high 14.7 PPG in 1994-95 and a career-high 8.8 APG in 1993-94.

Other considerations: David Wesley, Tony Battie, Ryan Gomes

No. 5 – Kevin Garnett

The recently departed Kevin Garnett is far and away the greatest Celtic to ever wear No. 5. In fact, the Celtics may eventually retire No. 5 in Garnett’s honor after he spent six seasons in green and white - including one championship season.

Garnett arrived in Boston via trade on July 31, 2007. He helped the C’s win their 17th world championship in his first season with the team. Garnett also helped to re-establish a strong culture in the locker room and was the anchor of the team’s vaunted defense. Over six seasons with the team, he averaged 15.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 2.7 APG.

Other considerations: Bill Walton

No. 6 – Bill Russell

The greatest NBA champion of all time is also the greatest Celtic to ever wear No. 6. Bill Russell, who has a championship ring for every finger with one to spare, played all of his 13 seasons with the Celtics and had his number retired by the team on March 12, 1972.

Russell was a dominant force throughout his career with the C’s. He finished with career averages of 15.1 PPG and 22.5 RPG. Russell averaged a career-high 24.7 RPG during the 1963-64 season while leading Boston to its seventh title. Russell was a five-time NBA MVP, a 12-time All-Star, and was named to the NBA’s famed 50th Anniversary Team.

Other considerations: None

No. 7 – Nate (Tiny) Archibald

There have been plenty of solid Celtics players who have worn No. 7, but Nate "Tiny" Archibald is at the top of the list. The Celtics acquired Archibald from the San Diego Clippers on Aug. 4, 1978. He went on to play five seasons with the team and finished with averages of 12.5 PPG and 6.2 APG. His best season with the team was in 1979-80, when he averaged 14.1 PPG and 8.4 APG. Archibald, who played 13 NBA seasons, is also a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Other considerations: Dee Brown, Kenny Anderson, Al Jefferson

No. 8 – Antoine Walker

Antoine Walker is one of the most beloved Celtics of all time, as he and Paul Pierce helped to carry the team through the late 90s and early 2000s. He was a solid all-around player for Boston during his eight years with the team and finished with averages of 20.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 4.1 APG. Walker averaged at least 20.1 PPG in four out of five seasons from 1997-98 to 2002-03, maxing out with 23.4 PPG in 2000-01.

Other considerations: None

No. 9 – Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo is the only player on this list who remains with the team to this day. He has logged seven impressive seasons with the Celtics and become one of the NBA’s top point guards. Rondo has led the NBA in assist average in each of the past two seasons, including a career-high 11.7 APG in 2011-12. Rondo is known for his electric play and penchant for triple-doubles. The Celtics are counting on him to be their leader as the team transitions into a new era.

Other considerations: None

No. 10 – JoJo White

Not many people have a resume as long and impressive as JoJo White’s. White, who had his number retired by the Celtics on April 9, 1982, is a two-time NBA champion, a former NBA Finals MVP and a seven-time All-Star.

White played his first 10 seasons with the Celtics after they drafted him ninth overall in 1969. He averaged 18.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 5.1 APG during his decade with the team. White was known for stepping his game up in the playoffs, as he averaged at least 20.6 PPG during five of his six postseasons. That scoring punch helped Boston take home titles in 1974 and 1976.

Other considerations: None


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