Historic Boston Celtics Championship Moment #1

The pieces were starting to fall into place for the Boston Celtics dynasty. They had the coach at Red Auerbach. Bob Cousy was the point guard. They caught Tom Heinsohn with a territorial pick in 1956.

Then they added the dagger. They successfully traded for the legendary Bill Russell, who was ranked second overall in the 1956 NBA Draft by the St. Louis Hawks. The addition of Russell paved the way for the Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years, including eight consecutive ones, starting in 1957.

In honor of the Boston Celtics’ 17 championships, we’ve highlighted 17 signature moments, good and bad, that took the Celtics from a dismal 22-38 start in 1946-47 to the current iteration of the longtime franchise now coming off of an NBA Finals appearance. The 17-game series in Celtics championship history unfolded all summer long and took us to opening night of the 2022-23 NBA season, a Boston prospect ending with banner no. 18.

The Celtics acquired Bill Russell in a trade with the St. Louis Hawks

Making a trade for the legendary Bill Russell is the greatest moment in Boston Celtics history. | Dan Goshtigian/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

Russell’s game was bouncy and defensive. He wasn’t a high-scoring center with great shooting touch, but the Celtics needed a presence in the middle. The odds of acquiring him through the draft were slim, so the Celtics got creative in 1956.

The Rochester Royals had the first pick in the 1956 NBA Draft, but already had a strong frontcourt. The Royals took Sihugo “Si” Green, a 6-foot-2 guard from Duquesne. Green played 13 games in his freshman year, then military duty kept him out in his sophomore year. He returned to the Cincinnati Royals the following season, then was traded to the Hawks.

Green played nine seasons in the NBA, averaging 9.2 points and 4.3 rebounds.

The Hawks went second and selected Russell to San Francisco. They were also interested in Boston center Ed Macaulay, a six-time All-Star. Macaulay had local ties to the Hawks. He was from St. Louis and played college ball there. The Celtics and Hawks reached a deal, with the Celtics adding future Hall of Famer Cliff Hagan to the trade that brought Russell to Boston.

Also in that 1956 draft, the Celtics defeated KC Jones in the second round. Jones was a 6-foot-1 guard who also played collegiate in San Francisco. Boston got three Hall of Famers with a pair of draft picks and a trade in 1956.

The biggest move was Russell. His ability to rebound and block shot sets him apart. Russell owned the paint, averaging 22.5 rebounds per game during his NBA career. He led the league in rebounding five times.

Russell was a winner on and off the pitch

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As Russell rebounded, blocked shots and won championships on the court, he was just as dominant off it. Russell fought racism during his time in the NBA and was a civil rights activist. In 1963, he told Sports Illustrated that making a name for himself on the court was fine, but he wanted to make his mark as a person.

“The contribution I would like to make as a person – to my children and to grand black children around the world – is to make life better, so that their ambitions are not stifled in the face of the world, to give them the opportunity to do what they’re best at. I might have a burning ambition to give my kids a million dollars. If I gave them that alone, I wouldn’t give them anything.

Bill Russell, at Sports Illustrated in 1963

Russell became the league’s first black coach after Auerbach’s retirement in 1966. He is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player (inducted in 1975) and as a coach (inducted in 2021).

When it comes to basketball, he made his mark as a player. He led the Celtics to 10 straight NBA Finals appearances, starting in his rookie year. Boston has won nine. He added two more championships in 1968 and 1969.

Russell’s physical ability was matched by his mental game. He said that while shooting the rebounds and punches put him in the spotlight, it was his psychological approach that led him to all those rebounds and blocks.

“Basketball is a game that involves a lot of psychology,” Russell told Sports Illustrated. “The psychology of defense is not about blocking a shot, stealing a pass, or moving the ball away. The psychology is about deviating the offensive team from their normal patterns. It’s a game of habits, and the player with the most consistent habits is the best. What I try to do in defense is to make the attacker not do what he wants but what I want.

While the Celtics brought several plays in 1956, Russell was the man who led the way – on and off the field.

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