№16: A Retrospective on the Retired Jerseys of the Boston Celtics

April 28, 2021

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The focus of this week’s team spotlight is on arguably the most generous franchise across the four major sports—The Boston Celtics! As of 2021, the Celtics have honored a total of twenty-two players, a coach, their former team owner, and long-time radio announcer. Check out this team retrospective in the section below.

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Welcome to Team Spotlight! Inspired by the writings of the late Zander Hollander (Sportswriter, archivist, and author of the ever informative The Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball), I decided to put my 30 years of basketball knowledge to some use and come up with a short, free flowing, and non-linear/viewpoint narrative on the featured NBA team.

The Boston Celtics

Established by owner Walter A. Brown, the Boston Celtics were among eight teams to participate in the inaugural season of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1946. Since their inception, the Celtics are currently tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most number of league championship (17) and hold the distinction of having the highest number of retired jersey numbers across the four major North American sports.

This team spotlight focuses on the players, coach, play-by-play radio announcer, and former owner that have been honored by the Boston Celtics.

As of 2021, the Boston Celtics have retired a total of 22 jersey numbers, 1 surname (LOSCY | At the request of Jim Loscutoff (†)), and a microphone (in honor of the Celtics long time play-by-play announcer Johnny Most (†)). As of this writing, 13 of the 24 honorees has passed away.

Below is my attempt at putting together a compressive list on this subject. It includes the chronological order of retired jerseys, date of retirement, and the number of years the honoree spent wearing Celtics green.

  1. #22 - Ed Macauley (†) (Honored on October 16, 1963). Played for the Celtics from 1950-51 to 1955-56. I was surprised to find that “Easy Ed” Macauley shares the same jersey retirement date with longtime Celtics playmaker Bob Cousy.

  2. #14 - Bob Cousy (Honored on October 16, 1963). “Cooz” played for Boston from 1950-51 to 1962-63. He is recognized as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history. As mentioned earlier, “The Houdini of the Hardwood” shares the same jersey retirement date with Ed Macauley.

  3. #23 - Frank Ramsey (†) (???). - Considered to be the NBA’s first 6th Man, Ramsey played for the Boston Celtics during the 1954-55 season and from 1956-57 to 1963-64. I can’t seem to find any information online which indicates when his jersey was retired. (If you have some insight on this, kindly share in the comment box below.)

  4. #15 - Tom Heinsohn (†) (Honored on October 15, 1966). “Tommy Gun” played from 1956-57 to 1964-65 and won 8 championships in 9 seasons as a player. Also known as “Mr. Celtic,” Tommy Heinsohn won two championships at the helm of the Celtics (1973-74 and 1975-76). Heinsohn is one of only four men to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and coach. He has been a part of all 17 Boston championships in some capacity (either as a player, head coach, or the Celtics broadcast analyst).

  5. #21 - Bill Sharman (†) (Honored on October 15, 1966). Played for the Celtics from 1951-52 to 1960-61 and was the longtime backcourt mate of Bob Cousy. Sharman is one of only four men to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and coach. He has also been honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

  6. #25 - K.C. Jones (†) (Honored on February 12, 1967). Jones played his entire career with the Boston Celtics (1958-59 to 1966-67) and won 8 straight championships in his first eight seasons.

    Like former teammate Tommy Heinsohn, K.C. Jones coached the Celtics to two championships (1983-84 and 1985-86 | Jones was an assistant coach during the 1980-81 championship). He, along with Bill Russell, are the only two African-American coaches to win multiple NBA titles.

  7. #24 - Sam Jones (Honored on March 9, 1969). “The Shooter” won 10 NBA championships in the twelve years that he played for the Boston Celtics (1957-58 to 1968-69). After Bill Russell, Jones ranks second among all NBA players with the most career championships (10) and has been selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

  8. #6 - Bill Russell (Honored on March 12, 1972). William Felton Russell was the bedrock of 11 NBA championships in thirteen season (1956-57 to 1968-69) with the Boston Celtics. He ranks first among all NBA players with the most career championships (11), the first African-American coach to win multiple NBA championships (the other is K.C. Jones), and was voted in 1996 as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.

    Stemming from a turbulent relationship with fans during his playing days, Russell only consented to having his jersey number raised to the rafters of Boston Garden if the ceremony was held without any fans present.

    Bill Russell (Bill Russell Limited Edition Mr. Octobear Set | Hollywood Collectibles’ Reggie Jackson’s Mr. Octobears Promotional Set | PSA/DNA Certified)
  9. #1 - Walter Brown (†) (Honored posthumously on October 17, 1964). Shortly after his death on September 7, 1964, the Boston Celtics retired #1 in honor of Brown who owned the team from 1946 to 1964.

  10. #16 - Tom "Satch" Sanders (Honored on January 19, 1973). Power forward Thomas Ernest "Satch" Sanders played his entire thirteen year career with the Boston Celtics (1960-61 to 1972-73). During that time, he was part of 8 championship teams in his first nine seasons. After his retirement, Sanders became the head coach of Harvard University for several years before taking on the role of an assistant coach with the Celtics. After a slow start during the 1977-78 season, the Celtics hired Sanders as their head coach. However, “Satch” was relieved of his duties 14 games into the following season.

  11. #19 - Don Nelson (Honored during “1978”). After signing as a free agent, Nelson played 11 seasons for the Celtics (1965-66 to 1975-76) and was a part of 5 championship teams. After retirement, Nelson moved to the sidelines and coached the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors (twice), New York Knicks, and Dallas Mavericks in a 31-year career. As of this writing, Don Nelson has won the most regular season games (1335) and also coached the second most regular season games (2398). (In my research, only the year of retirement “1978” is mentioned. If a retirement ceremony was held, it would have likely been done prior to the beginning of the 1978-79 season. If you happen to have some information on the exact date that Nelson’s jersey was retired, kindly share in the comment box below.)

  12. LOSCY - Jim Loscutoff (†) (Honored on ???) Playing for the Celtics from 1955-56 to 1963-64, “Jungle Jim” made his bones on the defensive end of the floor alongside franchise icon Bill Russell. The Celtics had wanted to honor Loscutoff by retiring his #18, but he declined in order for future players to continue on wearing the number. In lieu of a jersey number, the Celtics retired Jim Loscutoff’s nickname “LOSCY.” (If you have some information on Jim Loscutoff’s jersey retirement date, kindly share in the comment box below.)

  13. #17 - John Havlicek (†) (Honored on October 13, 1978). “Hondo” played for the Boston Celtics from 1962-63 to 1977-78. In a record 16 seasons, Havlicek ranks as the Celtics all-time leader in games played (1,270), minutes (46,471), field goals made (10,513), field goals attempted (13,417), personal fouls (3,281), and points (26,395). In 1996, he was named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

  14. #18 - Dave Cowens (Honored on February 8, 1981). Drafted 4th overall by the Celtics in 1970, Dave Cowens had arguably one of the best 10 year stretches (1970-71 to 1979-80) that any player could have hoped for. During the 70’s, he was named Rookie of the Year (1971), Most Valuable Player (1973), playing-coach (for one season | 1978-79), and led Boston to two NBA championships (1974 and 1976).

    During the 1977-78 season, he became the first player to lead his club in all five major statistical categories for a season: points (18.6), rebounds (14.0), assists (4.6), steals (1.3), and blocks (0.9). In 1996, Cowens was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

  15. #10 - Jo Jo White (†) (Honored on April 9, 1982). After serving out his military commitment, White joined a rebuilding Celtics team in 1969-70 and was immediately thrusted into a prominent role. In 10 seasons (1969-70 to 1978-79) with Boston, Jo Jo White served as their lead guard and was an integral member of their 1974 and 1976 championship teams.

    At the conclusion of the 1976 NBA Finals, White was named the 1976 NBA Finals MVP.

  16. #2 - Arnold "Red" Auerbach (†) (Honored on January 4, 1985). Aside from coaching the Boston Celtics for 16 years without the aid of any assistant coaches (1950-51 to 1965-66), Red Auerbach also served as the club’s general manager and scout. He was a pioneer and visionary on many levels as a number of his managerial decisions helped break down the color barrier in the NBA (With the 1st pick in the 2nd round of the 1950 NBA Draft, Auerbach selected the first African-American player (Chuck Cooper) to play in the NBA. In 1966-67, he named Bill Russell as his successor. With his appointment as head coach, Russell became the first African-American to coach a major sports franchise.) while his revolutionary coaching methods led to strategies such as the “fast break” and the importance of a “6th Man.”

    In his role as executive, Auerbach engineered championship swinging trades that brought the likes of Bill Russell, Robert Parish, and a more seasoned Bill Walton to the Celtics. He was also an excellent judge of talent and always seemed to land one of the best (if not the best) talent during the annual NBA Draft. Notable draftees were Frank Ramsey (1953 | 1st round, 5th overall), Cliff Hagan (1953 | 3rd round, 21st overall), Jim Loscutoff (1955 | 1st round, 3rd overall), K.C. Jones (1956 | 2nd round, 13th overall), Sam Jones (1957 | 1st round, 8th overall), Tom “Satch” Sanders (1960 | 1st round, 8th overall), John Havlicek (1962 | 1st round, 7th overall), Jo Jo White (1969 | 1st round, 9th overall), Dave Cowens (1970 | 1st round, 4th overall), Cedric Maxwell (1977 | 1st round, 12th overall), Larry Joe Bird (1978 | 1st round, 6th overall), Kevin McHale (1980 | 1st round, 3rd overall), Danny Ainge (1981 | 2nd round, 31st overall), and Reggie Lewis (1987 | 1st round, 22nd overall) just to name a few.

    Arnold "Red" Auerbach won 9 NBA titles as the coach of the Boston Celtics and was selected as one of the top 10 coaches in NBA history (1996).

  17. #3 - Dennis Johnson (†) (Honored on December 13, 1991). Prior to the 1983-84 season, Red Auerbach swung a deal to acquire defensive ace Dennis Johnson from the Phoenix Suns. “DJ” paid immediate dividends for the Celtics as the club won the NBA Championship that season (1983-84) and again two years later (1985-86). Johnson would go on to play for the Boston Celtics from 1983-84 to 1989-90.

  18. #33 - Larry Joe Bird (Honored on February 4, 1993). After deciding to remain in Indiana State University to play out his junior year, Larry Joe Bird joined the Boston Celtics for the 1979-80 season and breathed new life into the floundering franchise. The following season (1980-81), Bird would lead the Celtics to their 14th NBA championship.

    Over the course of his 13-year career with Boston (1979-80 to 1991-92), Bird would win three NBA Championships (1981, 1984, 1986), Rookie of the Year (1980), three consecutive Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards (1984, 1985, 1986), NBA Finals MVP (1984, 1986), All-Star Game MVP (1982), and the first three Three-Point shooting contests (1986 [inaugural competition], 1987, and 1988).

    In 1996, he was recognized as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

  19. #32 - Kevin McHale (Honored on January 30, 1994). Drafted by Boston with the 3rd overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft, Kevin McHale primarily served as the team’s 6th Man for the next five seasons. During that stretch, McHale improved on his scoring average each season, won back-to-back 6th Man of the Year Awards (1984 and 1985), and was part of the club’s 1981 and 1984 NBA Championship teams.

    Kevin McHale played his entire 13-year career with the Boston Celtics (1980-81 to 1992-93) and won three NBA Championships (1981, 1984, and 1986). In 1996, he was voted as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

  20. #35 - Reggie Lewis (†) (Honored posthumously on March 22, 1995). Drafted by the Boston Celtics in the 1st round (22nd overall) of the 1987 NBA Draft, Lewis played sparingly in his rookie year but emerged to become the team’s third leading scorer (18.5 points per game) the following year. After the retirement of Larry Bird following the 1991-92 season, Lewis was looked upon by the Boston faithful to lead the Celtics into the 90’s but his untimely death affected the team dramatically in the years to come.

    Reggie Lewis played his entire career with the Boston Celtics from 1987-88 to 1992-93.

  21. #00 - Robert Parish (Honored on January 18, 1998). Coming to Boston as part of a 1980 pre-draft trade, “The Chief” played fourteen years (1980-81 to 1993-94) for the Celtics and averaged 16.5 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 1106 games.

    Playing alongside Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, the trio would eventually dominate most of the decade and portended by sports scribes as the greatest front court in NBA history. Robert Parish has been recognized as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players (1996).

  22. #31 - Cedric Maxwell (Honored on December 15, 2003). Drafted by the Celtics with the 12th overall selection in the 1977 NBA Draft, “Cornbread” broke out during his sophomore champaign and averaged 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds over 80 games. The following season, Maxwell teamed up with rookie sensation Larry Joe Bird and helped lead a resurgent Boston team to the 1980 Eastern Conference Finals.

    Maxwell and Bird would continue on being the Celtics starting forwards for the next five seasons. During the 1981 NBA Finals, Cedric Maxwell was named NBA Finals MVP after the Boston topped the Philadelphia 76ers (4-2).

    Maxwell played for the Boston Celtics from 1977-78 to 1984-85.

  23. #34 - Paul Pierce (Honored on February 11, 2018). The most recent honoree to this prestigious group. “The Truth” played the first 15 years of his career (1998-99 to 2012-13) with the Celtics. In 2007-08, Pierce teamed up with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and guided the Celtics to their 17th NBA Championship—their first since 1985-86.

    He is one of only three Celtics to score 20,000 points with the franchise (the others are John Havlicek and Larry Joe Bird) and is Boston’s all-time leader in three-point field goals made (1,823) and attempted (4,928), free-throws made (6,434) and attempted (7,979), turnovers (3,213), and steals (1,583).

  24. Microphone - Johnny Most (†) (Honored on December 3, 1990). Almost two after Most announced his retirement, the long time Celtics radio announcer was honored with silver-plated microphone that was permanently installed on a facade in the old Boston Garden.

    In this YouTube video, Johnny Most calls the play of the game.


About

Tedi Gustilo Villasor, Ph.D. is a former columnist for Baby Magazine (Philippines) as well as a past contributor to NBA.com/Philippines. His other works include the indie comic books Lindol and OBIsessions.

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