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  The biggest quandary that players have when coming to Boston is trying to find a number that hasn't been retired.   No other team has as much history as the Celtics and no team has more numbers retired and hanging in the rafters so it surprised me when I read that Shaq's chosen number 36 had never been worn by any other Celtics.   I did some research and found that 36, 37, 38, 39, 46, 47, 48, and 49 have never been worn in spite of the 21 numbers (plus a name) that have been retired by the team.   I figured this was a good time to revisit a series I did way back in 2005 and take a look at some Celtics history and see just who are the players behind all those retired numbers. 


Number 1 was retired on October 17, 1964 for the Celtics founder and the first owner of the franchise, Walter Brown. After succeeding his father as manager of the Boston Garden, he helped to found the Basketball Association of America in 1946, and was instrumental in merging the BAA and the National Basketball League into the National Basketball Association in 1949. He founded the Celtics in 1945, and helped to transform the team into a dynasty, as the Celtics won six championships in the seven years. He also was instrumental in the creation of the first NBA All-Star Game in 1951, which was played in the Boston Garden.

Number 2 was retired on January 4, 1985 in honor of Arnold "Red" Auerbach. Red is the face and the heart of the Celtics. The number 2 was retired for him to signify the fact that Red is second only to Walter Brown as the most significant person in the history of the Boston Celtics.... He was the Head Coach of the team from 1950 through 1966, during which he won nine Championships that included eight straight from 1958 through 1966...After his coaching career, he went on to serve as President and General Manager, leading the Celtics to an additional seven NBA championships. Red could always be seen in the stands lighting his trademark cigar at the end of every Celtics victory.

Number 3 was retired on December 13, 1991 in honor of Dennis Johnson. DJ" played for the Celtics for seven seasons, from 1983 through 1990...He helped lead the Celtics to a pair of NBA world championship titles in 1984 and 1986. DJ was always a clutch player and seemed to step up his game in the playoffs. He was known for his defense and was a perennial fixture on the NBA all defensive team. Larry Bird called DJ the best player he ever played with and that is some very high praise. Everyone remembers that Bird stole the ball, but it was DJ who saw what had happened and cut to the basket for the layup. My favorite part of that play was when with just a fraction of a second left and all of his teammates celebrating, DJ's first reaction was to turn and play defense on the inbound pass. DJ was an Assistant Coach for the Celtics from 1992 through 1997. In 2007, he was coaching the Austin Toros, who were the Celtics' D-League affiliate at the time, and he collapsed after a practice. He died of a heart attack on February 22, 2007.

Number 6 was retired on March 12, 1972 for Bill Russell, who is considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Russell anchored the Celtics teams that won nine World Championships, winning 8 in a row at one time. Russell is the Celtics all-time leading rebounder with 21,620 rebounds which is an astounding average of 22.5 per game. Russell was declared to be the Greatest Player in the History of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers' Association of America in 1980. He made the All Star team every year in his career except his rookie year. When Red Auerbach retired, Bill Russell became a player coach of the Celtics for three seasons, 1966 through 1969, finishing with a record of 162-83 (.661) and two world championship titles in 1968 and 1969. He was elected to the Naismith Basketball Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. In the 2008-09 season, he came to Boston to encourage Kevin Garnett and even offered him one of his rings if KG didn't win his own. One of the greatest sights after the Celtics won their 17th championship was KG and Bill Russell embracing on the court as KG told him he had his own ring now.

Number 10 was retired on April 9, 1982 for JoJo White, who was the point guard that led the Celtics offense and propelled the 1974 and 1976 teams to NBA championship titles. JoJo played for the Celtics from 1969 to the 1979 season and was a member of the gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic Team in 1968. JoJo was a seven-time NBA All-Star and he reached the pinnacle of his career in 1976. On June 4 at the hot, jam-packed Boston Garden in Game 5 of the NBA Championship Finals against the Phoenix Suns, White led the Celtics with 33 points spread out over 60 minutes in the now famous 128-126 triple-overtime victory and was named the Finals MVP. JoJo remains with the Celtics organization, serving as Director of Special Projects and Community Relations Representative.





Number 14 was retired on October 16, 1963 in honor of Bob Cousy. Bob Cousy was one of the greatest playmakers and passers in NBA history Cousy spent all 13 of his NBA seasons with the Celtics. He had the nickname of "The Houdini of the Hardwood" and anyone watching him play would know how that nickname came about. He helped lead the Celtics to six NBA world championship titles. Cousy was a 13-time NBA All-Star, making the team in each of his 13 seasons in the NBA. He remains the Celtics all-time assists leader with 6,945. Cousy has enjoyed a very public life after his retirement. He made a cameo appearance in the movie Blue Chips, and has worked at different capacities for the Celtics since his playing days were over. Up until last season, he appeared with Mike and Tommy with his analysis of the games. He has had some very good things to say about Rondo.

Number 15 was retired on October 15, 1966 for Tommy Heinsohn. If anyone can be considered a Celtic for Life, it is Tommy Heinsohn. He helped the Celtics capture eight NBA world championship titles in his nine-year playing career, all with the Celtics...He was Head Coach of the Celtics for nine years from 1969 through 1978, and guided the Celtics to two more NBA titles. He was the NBA Coach of the Year in 1973. For the past 28 years, Tommy has paired with Mike Gorman as the TV analysts for the Celtics' games. He loves the Celtics and doesn't make any effort to hide it.

Don't forget to check out Celtics Green Forums.

FLCeltsFan 8/06/2010 06:59:00 AM Edit
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3 Responses so far.

  1. Jenda says:

    I'm sorry, I didn't find that information in the article: Are you going to do a bit on all the retired numbers? (Do it, please.)

  2. Above in this part of the article, I listed the first 7 retired jerseys. Next to the jersey photo is a little bit about the person or player that the number was retired for. The majority of the article was after the break.

  3. Excellent Piece Shirley! This was very interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You know my passion for the history of the franchise.

    Nick Gelso

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