Notable Celtics Olympians

Olympic basketball just wrapped up competition five days ago, and while the Boston Celtics did not have any representatives in Rio, they have certainly had their fair share of accomplished Olympians in the past.

With the Olympic Games still fresh on our minds, we at took a look back at some of the franchise’s most notable medalists – from Larry Legend to the great Bill Russell – and highlighted their podium performances below.

Larry Bird

Larry Bird hung up his Celtics jersey following the 1991-92 season, but it wouldn’t be the last basketball uniform he’d don. A few months following his retirement from the NBA, Larry Legend was offered a spot on the USA Olympic basketball team – the so-called “Dream Team” – which was arguably the best group of basketball players ever assembled.

Dating back to 1936, NBA players had not been allowed to participate in the Olympics; FIBA implemented a rule in 1989 that enabled NBA-ers to take part in international competition. Team USA certainly took advantage of the new rule, as its 12-man roster featured 11 future Hall-of-Famers – including Bird, its oldest member.

The 35-year-old didn’t let his age get the best of him, however, as he suited up alongside many former rivals – including Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson – and helped Team USA win eight straight games to capture the gold medal. He averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, leaving one final mark on the basketball world before hanging up his jersey for good.

K.C. Jones

While Bird experienced his only Olympic Games after his NBA playing days were over, K.C. Jones got a taste of the international stage before his Celtics career began.

After winning his second straight NCAA title at university of San Francisco, he and college teammate Bill Russell were selected by the C’s in the 1956 Draft. Later that year, both would participate in the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, where they would guide Team USA to gold.

Jones averaged 10.9 points per game for the 8-0 squad, which had an unfathomable average margin of victory of 53.5 points per game.

Two years later, the point guard suited up for Boston and went on to win eight straight NBA titles during a nine-year career.

Dino Radja

The aforementioned 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team was, in all probability, the greatest assembly of basketball players to ever take the same court. One former Celtic was very familiar with that squad’s wrath, albeit from the opposing side of the ball.

Twenty-five-year-old Dino Radja, a 1989 Celtics draftee, met the United States in the ’92 gold medal game with his fellow countrymen of Croatia. Alongside NBA stars Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc, Radja and the Croatians put their best foot forward but succumbed to Team USA, 117-85. One proud claim that Radja can make from that game is that he scored more points (23) than any member of the star-studded cast on the other end of the floor, including Jordan, Johnson and Bird.

Radja, who also won a silver medal with Yugoslavia at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, joined the Celtics in 1993. He enjoyed four successful seasons in Boston, during which he averaged 16.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.

Bill Russell

The first thing that comes to mind at the mention of Bill Russell’s name is championships. He won a record 11 NBA rings with the Celtics and two NCAA titles at the University of San Francisco.

But what many do not realize is that he was also an Olympic champion.

Between his collegiate and professional career, Russell and K.C. Jones guided the most dominant Olympic basketball team in history to a gold medal in 1956. As previously noted, the team outscored its opponents by an average of 53.5 PPG – the largest being a 72-point win over Thailand and the “smallest” being a 30-point victory over the USSR.

Russell provided the bulk of Team USA’s scoring, averaging a team-best 14.1 points per game. He earned his gold medal against the Soviets on Dec. 1, 1956, just 21 days before putting on the green for his first Celtics game.

Little did the big man know, he had 11 more title-winning moments waiting for him just beyond the horizon.

Jo Jo White

When the Boston Celtics drafted Jo Jo White in the 1969 NBA draft, the young guard already had an impressive mark of achievement on his basketball resume: An Olympic gold medal.

White suited up for the red, white and blue during the previous summer at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, and he and fellow 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Spencer Haywood dominated the competition. Behind White’s second-leading scoring mark of 11.7 PPG, USA went 9-0 with an average margin of victory of 26.0 points per game. He tallied a team-best 16 points during Team USA’s semifinal win against Brazil, and then put up 14 more in the 65-50 gold medal-clinching win against Yugoslavia.

White went on to play 10 seasons with the Celtics after that, earning seven All-Star selections and two NBA titles.


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