The Debate: Top Five Celtics Scorers of All Time

Who are the top scorers in Celtics history? How about the top rebounders, passers, offensive players and defenders?

With so much history – unquestionably the most of any franchise in the sport – these debates are heated. However, we have dug through the numbers and come up with our top-five lists for each of the five categories.

Over the next week, we will release our lists while likely throwing fire onto the debate. So without further ado, here are the top five scorers in Celtics history. All statistics are from a player’s career with Boston.

5. Antoine Walker

11,386 20.6

Making the case...

Surprised to see this man’s name at No. 5? Well, we were surprised to write it, but the numbers don’t lie. Many will be shocked that Antoine Walker’s name is in front of Bob Cousy’s, but Cousy never shot better than 39.7 percent from the field during a season, while Walker shot 41.3 percent from the field during his career with Boston. Walker’s average of 20.6 points per game with Boston ranks fifth on the team’s all-time list (and one of the players in front of him is Isaiah Thomas, who has only played 103 regular-season games in a Celtics uniform). Walker played parts of eight seasons with the Celtics, and while he wasn’t known for his efficiency, he certainly was known for his scoring.

4. Kevin McHale

17,335 17.9

Making the case...

The Slippery Eel, as they called it, was the move Kevin McHale used to score quite a few of his 17,335 points in a Celtics uniform. His total ranks fifth on the team’s all-time scoring list. What’s crazy about that number is the fact that he was a full-time starter for Boston during only four of his 13 seasons with the team, so the vast majority of his points were scored as a reserve. McHale maxed out with an average of 26.1 PPG during the 1986-87 season, and he averaged at least 20.9 PPG for five straight seasons from 1985-1990.

3. Paul Pierce

24,021 24.3

Making the case...

Paul Pierce, the most recent legend in Celtics history. Pierce spent the first 15 seasons of his career with the Celtics and poured in the second-most points in the franchise’s history, 24,021, during that time. Pierce also ranks second on the team’s all-time PPG list, behind only Larry Bird, with a scoring average of 21.8 PPG. Pierce was an all-around scorer throughout his decade and a half with the C’s. He did it from long distance, he did it in the midrange, and he did it off the dribble.

2. John Havlicek

26,395 20.8

Making the case...

John Havlicek could easily be atop this list. In fact, he is atop the team’s all-time scoring list, with a total of 26,395 points. That number remains as the 15th-best total in NBA history, just ahead of Pierce and former Celtic Kevin Garnett. Think about all of the great players who have come through the league, then realize that Havlicek is in the top 15 of all of them when it comes to putting the ball through the basket. Hondo finished his career in Boston with a scoring average of 20.8 PPG, which ranks fourth in team history. He scored at a high rate for 16 seasons in Boston, including eight straight seasons that featured averages of at least 20.7 PPG.

1. Larry Bird

21,791 24.3

Making the case...

How can anyone top Havlicek, the team’s all-time leading scorer, on this list? One word: efficiency. Larry Bird put up 21,791 career points in Boston despite playing only 13 seasons, including one (1988-89) during which he only played six games. With those factors considered, it’s no surprise that Bird finished his career as the leading points-per-game scorer in Boston by a landslide. Bird averaged 24.3 PPG during his career; the next-best average is Pierce’s 21.8 PPG. That’s the largest scoring gap between any player on the team’s top 10 PPG list, and by a wide margin. His average of 24.3 PPG ranks 16th in league history. As more evidence of Bird’s hold as the franchise’s top scorer, his name appears 15 times in the team’s top 21 all-time single-game scoring efforts. It’s no surprise that his scoring prowess was able to lead the C’s to three of their 17 NBA titles, in 1981, 1984 and 1984.

Honorable Mentions

Bob Cousy 16,955 18.5
Robert Parish 18,245 16.5
Isaiah Thomas 2,223 21.6

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