There’s no doubt about it—the Boston Celtics were the most dominant force in the NBA throughout the 20th century. By now, names like Larry Byrd and Bill Russell are synonymous with the Celtics’ wild success throughout the last century.
In fact, the club won a record 16 championships from 1957 - 1986, but, of course, you know that.
Since 2000, though, the Celtics have never quite managed to replicate this form, other than a memorable championship win back in 2008.
This doesn’t mean that they haven’t had their fair share of great players; in fact, there’s a case to be made that the Celtics have been home to some of the league’s standout ballers in the 21st century.
From freak athletes to super-smart readers of the game, the Celtics have had it all since 2000, and this list will take a look at the crème de la crème from their roster over the last twenty years or so.
So, without further ado, here is our selection of the best Celtics players since 2000…
We start with maybe the greatest Celtics player of the 21st century so far—a man whose fifteen years with the franchise make him a true local legend. Paul Pierce led the Celtics to their 17th record-breaking championship win back in the 2007/08 season, scooping up the MVP award for himself in the process. With a total of 1,102 games for the Celtics under his belt—the third most of any player ever to don the famous green and white—Pierce also nabbed 1583 steals for the organization, which continues to live on as a record.
A true all-time great of the Celtics, Paul Pierce is a 10-time NBA All Star small forward whose crazy jump shot and dribbling magic make him a legend of the modern game. Since retiring, Pierce has found new ways to achieve the mental stimulation that he thrived on in basketball.
This five-time all-star was part of the famous “Big Three” of the mid-2000’s, together with Pierce and Ray Allen (who we will come to later). A behemoth in defense, Garnett provided the missing piece of the puzzle to bring home a championship for the team in 2008 after over twenty years of waiting. His mental toughness and humility to make his teammates better players helped Garnett endear himself to the Celtics faithful. These days, the legendary defender has been making media headlines for reasons unrelated to his basketball exploits.
The third and final member of the legendary ‘Big Three’ trio, Allen was a phenomenal shooter who needed only the slightest of gaps to get off a shot, which would invariably sink through the net. Speed and stamina were essential components of Allen’s game, and although he caused a stir after leaving for Miami, he is undoubtedly one of the best players to grace the organization’s colors since 2000.
An exceptionally good 2-guard, Allen set the record for the most three-pointers made in NBA history.
Ray Allen was renowned for his speed and stamina, as well as a wicked jump shot.
Perhaps the most purely talented of all Celtics players since 2000 (with the exception of Pierce), Rondo is a unique player whose small stature and lack of real shooting ability mark him as something of an anomaly. With amazing ball handling and an eye for a pass that’s uncanny, to say the least, Rondo is a truly elite facilitator who ranks 11th on the list for all-time NBA triple doubles, with 32 in the regular season and 10 in playoff games.
Rondo’s eight years with the Celtics saw him develop into one of the league’s most formidable point guards; he ranks fourth on the all-time list of assists for the franchise and third for steals. Today Rondo remains a highly-respected veteran who continues to compete at the top level.
A controversial inclusion for our final choice is Kyrie Irving, whose recent transfer to Brooklyn raised more than a few eyebrows in Boston. What can’t be denied, however, is Irving’s sheer skill, and the quality he exhibited in his two-year stint with the Celtics made him one of the greatest point guards in the franchise’s history.
With incredible shooting prowess and dribbling to mesmerize the most seasoned of fans, Irving is a precocious talent whose skills will be missed up in Boston. With that said, his decision to move to the Nets after only two years will surely hurt his legacy in the city, as will his rumoured attitude problems.