While ranking Boston's all-time greatest passer, Marc D'Amico of Celtics.com regarded Rajon Rondo as the number one passer in Celtics' history. However, could there be some recency bias involved in that choice? The argument for Rondo is simple. During his tenure in
Boston, he was a wizard with the ball in his hands. Rondo made plays that are not
even imaginable to ordinary fans, let alone other superstars. His 4,474 assists
with the Celtics rank fourth all-time, behind mainstays Bob Cousy, John
Havlicek and Larry Bird, respectively. If Rondo had continued playing in Boston,
it is definitely possible that he could have become the all-time leader,
although it would have taken at least five more good years to surpass Cousy’s
6,945 career assists. That being said, “greatness” goes beyond mere statistics.
We all watched Rondo develop throughout his career, and his highlights are
still fresh in our minds. Does
this necessarily mean he is the best? Not at all! While Cousy highlights are
not the most sought after products, he was not called the “Houdini of the Hardwood”
for nothing. Cousy played in a completely different era when basically everyone
except for Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor played below the rim. How many
assists might Cousy have had playing with guys who could do this?
Cousy was revolutionary. He changed the game with his flashy style of play, which helped pave the way for players like Rondo. It also goes to say that Cousy led the league in assists eight times, while Rondo only did it twice as a member of the Celtics. While it is hard to compare the abilities of players who played 50 years apart, Cousy was the top assist-man at his position for basically his entire career.
Rondo is not even Cousy’s biggest threat to best Celtics
passer. That honor goes to the Basketball Jesus, Larry Bird. I promise not to
argue if you make the claim that Bird had the highest basketball IQ of all
time. Not only did Bird have move career assists than Rondo (5,695 to 4,474), but he did so while playing primarily off-ball, while Rondo had the ball in his hands the majority of the time. Just because Rondo was a point guard in no way makes him a better passer
than Bird. I mean, how often do you see these types of passes from a forward?
If we are basing passing just off of point guard play, is
Rondo even the best point guard in Celtics history? No one is arguing he was
better than Cousy. After that? I would personally take Dennis Johnson and JoJo
White, both inducted into the NBA Hall-of-Fame, over Rondo as well.
None of this is to say Rondo is a bad player. On the
contrary, Rondo is amazing. At his peak, he was truly someone a good portion of
Celtics fans thought we could build around. Although his career did not turn
out the way we hoped, he will always be loved in our hearts. While Rondo is probably not the greatest passes in C's history, I would agree with Mark D'Amico that he is one of the top three, just behind Cousy and Bird.