Guest post by The Sports Hayes
By the end of the 50's the Celtics had become the dominant team in the NBA. At the beginning, they were struggling for recognition. Things changed when Walter Brown hired Red Auerbach prior to the 1950-51 season. After that they got extremely lucky as they got hall of famer Ed Macauley in a dispersal draft, picking hall of famer Bob Cousy literally out of a hat and getting hall of fame shooter Bill Sharman because the Brooklyn Dodgers collapsed at the end of the 1951 baseball season. From then on, Red put pieces together until it finally came together in 1957. The rest is history
Coach - Red Auerbach
Either one year of Doggie Julian finishing with one of the league's worst records or 9 years of Auerbach making the playoffs all 9 years and winning the NBA title twice, what are you picking?
Center - Ed Macauley
Ed was a 6 time all-star in Boston and once in St. Louis before finally winning a ring in 1958. He was apart of the Celtics original "big 3" and he was a damn good player. He just didn't have the height or body to bang with the rugged centers of that era. Back then throwing elbows, hip checks and even fist-fighting was common back then and Macauley was too frail to fit the role.
Forward - Tom Heinsohn
We all know him now as the wise-cracking, excitable color commentator for the Celtics but from 1957-65 he was one of the best rebounders in the NBA as well as a great scorer. He played 9 years in the NBA and won 8 championships, coached 8 1/2 years in the NBA and won 2 more. That's 10 in 16 1/2 years, can't go wrong there.
Forward - Jack Nichols
A lot of guys can be stars in college but can't handle the toughness of the NBA, this guy is the reason why those guys don't make it. He wasn't the flashiest scorer, the toughest defender, the best rebounder or a top playmaker but his toughness and ability to make the right play made him an Auerbach favorite. He played 9 years in the league and picked up a championship as a reserve on the 1957 Celtics. Toughness and intelligence can overcome raw talent, hence why Nichols flourished and Tyus Edney floundered.
Guard - Bill Sharman
No brainer here. Hall of fame shooter than won an ass-load of championships as a player with the Celtics, coach in the ABL, coach in the ABA and coach/general manager in the NBA with the Lakers. He invented the shoot-around and taught the Lakers the fastbreak which made Showtime famous. Still considered the
Guard - Bob Cousy
Another no-brainer here. Cousy was the NBA's superstar guard to compliment its big man George Mikan in the early 50's. He also was just as popular in Boston as Ted Williams and Milt Schmidt. His dazzling playmaking made the Celtics contenders every year and he won 6 championships in the process. How's this for a stat that may never be duplicated, 13 years with the Celtics and made the playoffs all 13 seasons. (If Michael Jordan didn't play 2 full seasons with the Wizards, he would have duplicated it)
Center - Arnie Risen
The backup center for Macauley and Russell was one of the top centers in the league during the early days of the NBA, leading the Rochester Royals (3 name changes later, they're now known as the Sacremento Kings) to their only NBA championship in the middle of the Lakers dominance. He backed up Bill Russell in 57 and 58 and started most of the 57 season when Russell was away at the Olympics.
Forward - Jim Loscutoff
While not exactly the bare knuckled brawler Bob Brannum was, as the game evolved from rowdy to skill, Loscutoff had a bit more talent. He was the team's "enforcer" from 1956-64 and his duty was to protect Auerbach on the sidelines and his teamates on the court. That's not hyperbole either, fans in those days would routinely attack the Celtics bench with security limited in those days. When the Celtics played the Syracuse Nationals (now known as the Philadelphia Sixers), Red would have Loscutoff walk in front of him and Heinsohn behind to keep fans from taking a swing. His toughness also earned him 7 world championships (1 more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jordan).
Forward - Chuck Cooper
The Celtics first black player wasn't just a trivia question, he was a legitimate rebounding and scoring forward that helped the Celtics make the playoffs between 1951-55 (before Cooper was let go). Its a shame he missed Russell by a couple of years because he deserved a championship ring for all he had to endure.
Guard/Forward - Frank Ramsey
The only reason Ramsey doesn't make the first team is because Sharman is in the way. Ramsey wasn't the first "6th man" but he became the most famous in the 50's. Nowadays everyone has a guy they bring off the bench to jump-start the offense or take someone's place in foul trouble, back then Ramsey was one of the best to do it. One of the reasons Heinsohn was so effective was he would play balls out knowing Ramsey would come in and take his place without missing a beat. Like Loscutoff, he too took home 7 championship rings.
Guard - Andy Phillip
He was one of the best playmakers in the game since the inception of the BAA up until his retirement from
Extra - Sonny Hertzberg
One of the pre-Russell guards would have had a hall of fame career had he not gave up basketball to get a real job. In those days players got paid working class wages and many had summer jobs just to pay the bills. Before he retired, he was posting career best numbers in 1950 and 1951 for the Celtics. He was one of the few that survived the 1950 purge by Auerbach because he was an Auerbach guy from the Washington Capitols two years earlier.
These days you have guys like Kendrick Perkins that look mean and clear out the middle. While its much more controlled nowadays, in the 1950's there were bare-knuckle brawls on the court and in the stands frequently. Every team needed an "enforcer" so to speak and Brannum was the Celtics between 1952-55. Its no exaggeration when I say fist-fighting was common in those days and Brannum was considered one of the meanest and toughest in the league. Uppercutting Fred Schaus in the chest or knocking George Mikan goofy, Brannum was always there to lend a hand (or a fist) to his teammates.
That about wraps up the 1950's. Its truly a transformation to see a team go from one of the worst in the league to contenders to champions to the most dominant team in the NBA in just under a decade. Next up is the 60's which the Celtics dominated singlehandedly.
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