We know you need basketball in your life. I certainly could use some Celtics playoff basketball right about now. But with JR coming in clutch with quarantine questions of the day like these, hopefully Celtics Life has provided you with some munchies for the lockdown. Today, we bring you an extended cut of the build-a-player challenge many of you have likely seen on social media, but with a Celtic focus.
(Photo: Getty Images)
What if some of the great Celtics in the history of the franchise combined their best attributes to create the ideal basketball player? Today, we try to do exactly that by building the ideal ballplayer using only players who have worn the Celtic green. The idea is inspired by Bleacher Report’s staff Frankenstein player build draft, but in this piece I’ll build the perfect Celtic with the only limitation being that I cannot. Today’s attributes are jump shot, defense, size/athleticism, playmaking (encompassing passing, handles, and basketball IQ), and clutch gene (in the BR article, they incorporate finishing instead of the clutch gene but these are my rules 'cos why not). The only restriction I have is that I cannot use two attributes of the same player; e.g. the Larry Bird clutch gene and Larry Bird jump shot cannot be paired up.
Here's my player.
Jump Shot: Ray Allen
In the long-storied history of the great franchise, the Celtics have seen their fair share of talent, causing some of these decisions to be tough. I start by making my first tough choice between Jesus Shuttlesworth and one of the original beyond-the-arc shooters in the NBA and the winner of the first three 3-point contests, Larry Legend. While there isn't really a wrong answer here, I’m taking the volume of success from everywhere on the court that cemented Ray Allen’s position in the hall of fame and status as the greatest shooter of all time that Stephen Curry might still not have taken over.
In addition to his unparalleled consistency from deep, Allen also has a slight edge on Bird at the charity strike, shooting 89.4% from the free throw line while Bird shot 88.6%. And while he didn’t do it in Celtic green, Allen still possesses arguably the most clutch jump shot in NBA Finals history when he saved the Miami Heat in 2013. I just can’t justify passing up on the greatest jump shot of all time.
Playmaking: Rajon Rondo
In an era that includes LeBron James, the best passer of the active generation is a man that wore Boston on his uniform and won a championship with the green jersey on. It doesn’t take a prodigy to understand how gifted Rajon Rondo was as a playmaker, the full 94 feet of the court. While Rondo averages over 8 assists a game during his career thus far, his impact on the offensive end of the floor went beyond the numbers. Rondo gave the city moments at the point guard position that several franchises have never seen from their playmakers, and he did so with consistency and flair. The Yoga Instructor was perhaps my easiest choice today.
Size/Athleticism: Bill Russell
While I certainly could technically cheese the fact Shaq wore a Celtics uniform at the end of his career, I’d rather pick a guy who spent their athletic prime in Boston — how about a guy who spent their entire career in Boston and did so with more championship success than any man to play in the NBA? We’re talking about a 6’ 10” rebounding monster with a 7’ 4” wingspan that could also get out on the perimeter and guard up man to man — the ultimate Boston big man, William Felton Russell. While I certainly could have waited to take Russell's versatility and skill at defense, I'd rather not pass up on the size and athleticism combo that Russell poses. Luckily, I also have a few other solid options at defense that I can take.
Defense: Dave Cowens
While Russell’s shot-blocking and ability to guard every position on the floor is no longer available, I don’t feel like I’m settling by taking one of several elite defenders in Celtics history. While I could take an elite defensive guard in Jo Jo White or a full-court pressure master in Dennis Johnson, I'll take the combination of presence in the paint and skill with the steals possessed by Dave Cowens. A former MVP and member of the all-defensive first team, Cowens brought heart and hustle to the floor every day and battled bigs like Kareem with his physicality down low. While 6' 9", Cowens was also mobile for his time and could make a defensive impact on every spot of the floor, even when he wasn't blocking shots or registering steals.
Clutch Gene: Larry Bird
I chose to replace the finishing category suggested by Bleacher Report in favor of the clutch gene and yet again, I have a choice to make that’s anything but easy. In a franchise loaded with winning moments and clutch plays, the Celtics have had several come through when it mattered the most. Role players and legends alike, Boston has seen clutch minutes from a plethora of players but the two names that come to mind in terms of putting the team on their back when they had to are Paul “The Truth” Pierce and Larry “Legend” Bird. While the recency bias may make Pierce the intuitive answer, I’m not snubbing Larry twice today and I think I’m getting it right. The accolades, the highlight reel plays, and the swagger — Bird had it all and got the job done on the offensive and defensive end when heart rates were raised. The steal, the buzzer beaters, the “what the hell did he just do?” moments — Larry was the definition of ice-in-his-veins.
I think I’ve built the ideal Celtic — do you think I got it right? Next, I challenge you, but this time with the $15 challenge; instead of picking the best at each attribute, you have to make some extra decisions. For those of you who don’t know how it works: you have a theoretical $15 to build your perfect NBA player using only players from the menu below that I have made. You must pick one player in each attribute column. What does your perfect Celtic look like? Do you spot some steals in my menu? Let me know in the comments.