The 15 greatest all-time Celtics - and two 2-way players

I am about to present the 17 best players that played for the Celtics for at least three full seasons. The players will be broken down into a starting unit, second unit, third unit - and two 2-way players, thereby keeping the team structure much as it is today. The fact that, by necessity, a number of former Celtics stars will be left out of this mix is testament to how really good Boston has been for so many decades.

First Unit:
PG: Dennis Johnson - One of the very-best defenders of his era - earned three Championship rings, one with Seattle.
SG: John Havlicek - Great scorer and defender - fabulous athlete that could run all day - gained tremendous respect around the League.
SF: Larry Bird - Shoot, score, rebound, pass, defend, lead his teammates - could do it all - made great strides with mediocre athleticism.
PF: Kevin Garnett - Just a superb talent in a great body - absolutely critical to Celtics success upon his arrival in Boston.
C: Bill Russell - Great player, leader and human being - 5X NBA MVP - considered greatest-ever NBA player by many.

Second Unit
PG: Bob Cousy - Red Auerbach called himself stupid when he initially had no use for Cooz - that changed quickly - 13X All-Star.
SG: Sam Jones - Definitely under-rated - ten Championship rings - excellent shooter and able defender - mentor to star, Jimmy Walker - told me and others he planned to finally talk with Walker's son, Jalen Rose.
SF: Paul Pierce - He carried the team for so long prior to Garnett and Ray Allen - could score in so many ways.
PF: Kevin McHale - 6'10" with a freakish wingspan - one of the top low-post scorers all-time - called Frankenstein monster by Danny Ainge.
C: Dave Cowens - at 6'8.5", certainly undersized, but backed down from no one - quick, strong and feared.

Third Unit:
PG: Jo Jo White - Iron Man with 484 consecutive games played - tough cover for any defender - 1976 NBA Finals MVP
SG: Bill Sharman - teamed with Cooz prior to the Jones Boys (Sam and K.C.) - 8X All-Star - great free-throw shooter (93.2% one season).
SF: Reggie Lewis - was primed to be one of the all-time greats prior to his untimely death.
PF: Tommy Heinsohn - Tommy Gun never saw a shot he didn't like - favorite target of Red's wrath because Red knew Tommy could take it
C: Robert Parish - The Chief had a mediocre career prior to coming to the Celtics - his play was vital to the three 80's Championships

Two-Way Players
Cedric Maxwell - Max was also the Rubber-Band Man - could wiggle his way to the hoop and score - constantly fouled, getting him to the line.
Nate Archibald - resurrected his career in Boston - adept scorer and distributor - award-winning scowl when fouled - led NBA in BOTH scoring and assists one season prior to arrival in Boston.

Many Celtics stars such as Ray Allen, Frank Ramsey and Paul Westphal were left out of this discussion. Our readers will have other names to insert into the 17 listed above, and the order may change. Feel free to send in your thoughts.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Top photo via Stephan Savoia/Associated Press
Bottom photo via Walter Iooss, Jr./SI