My favorite Celtics of the decade

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So it's just about the New Year, which means it's just about the end of the decade, which means it's time for everyone and their mother to come up with All-Decade lists. I was thinking about what to write my own All-Decade lists, and couldn't decide what in the hell to do. I thought about writing the Boston Celtics All-Decade team... until I realized I might as well state their starting lineup for this season. I thought about writing about the ten best Celtics plays of the decade... but I'm far too indecisive to choose ten plays. I thought about ranking the top ten players... but that's kind of boring.

So instead of picking the best players, or the best plays, or an All-Decade team (because ANYONE can do that), I chose to write a list of my ten favorite players, mostly because, well, my favorites are probably far different than yours.

And here they are:

10. Walter McCarty - Why Walter McCarty? He was, at best, mediocre. He was a link to one of the worst times in Celtics history. He was Walter McCarty.

To be honest, I love Walter mostly for Tommy Heinsohn's famous call... IIII LOOOVVVEEEE WWWALLLLLLTTTAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! But it wasn't just that. McCarty gave his all on the court, and he did it during a time when not every Celtic gave a damn. And for that, I love Waltah.

9. Delonte West - You're going to start seeing a theme on this list: My favorite players are normally tough, tough bastards. When Delonte was on the Celtics (and now, too), he was a gritty defender, a hard-nosed rebounder, and he didn't yet carry shotgun-filled guitar cases over his shoulder. (At least so far as we know.)

Plus, he was always good for a goofy interview like this one:

8. Ray Allen - Ray's game is as smooth as silk. From his picture-perfect jumper to his finger-roll finishes at the rim, Ray is the epitome of smooth. On top of the aesthetic pleasure I get while watching Ray, he's been willing to sacrifice his game in order to help the C's win ballgames.

More than any other Celtic, Ray has cut back his own game in order to fill the role Doc asks of him. And that, above anything else, is why Ray Allen has quickly become one of my favorites.

7. Eddie House - You take a more accomplished player, a starter, a point guard who can actually handle the rock.  I'll take Eddie House, shooter extraordinaire, a player who plays every second like it might be his last in the league. (Okay, damn it.  You got me.  I'd still like a point guard who can actually handle the rock.)

Just in case you forgot, Eddie was huge for the Celtics in their run to the '08 championship, then even bigger the following season while establishing a new Celtics single-season three-point percentage record.  Along the way, he's far surpassed what should have been the ceiling for a 6 foot nothing point guard who can barely dribble the ball upcourt.  You've got to appreciate the overacheiver.

6. Al Jefferson - While I love most of the guys on this list for their heart and grit, I admire Al mostly for the way he plays basketball.  Watching him whip out post move after post move, I can't help but lust after his great footwork and soft touch.  If I had a son who played in the post, I would give him tapes of Al Jefferson to help him become a better player; before long, my son would be doing drop-steps, up-and-unders and jump hooks, all with the soft touch of a goddess.  Is there a better compliment you can give a player than saying you wish your son played like him?

5. Rajon Rondo - Selfless on the court, with a mean streak that belies his meek exterior, Rajon Rondo is, quite simply, the best Celtics point guard of my lifetime.  (A short lifetime, indeed.)  He can do it all on the court, fill up box scores with the best of them, and he does it all with a certain flair that he makes seem so effortless.  I love Rondo because he never backs down from any challenge, because he fails to ever believe he might be outmatched.  With an attitude like that and all the athletic ability in the world, the sky is the limit for Mr. Rondo.

4. Antoine Walker - Good ol' Employee Number 8 (or is it Broke ol' Employee Number 8?)  has always been one of the most polarizing Celtics in recent history.  Some people felt his antics, like the Walker wiggle, were played out and unnecessary; others loved to see such joy emanating from a professional basketball player.  Some saw 'Toine as merely an underacheiver, capable of far more than he accomplished; others saw him as one of the more talented all-around players in the league, a player who could handle the basketball, pop out for three, or post up. 

In the end, he was all of those things, and that's part of what made me love him.  He was as accessible as any Celtic I've seen, and he behaved as I might if I got to play one game in the NBA... with unbridled enthusiasm and a passion for the game that most NBA players lose sometime down the road.

3. James Posey - If you need a guy to dive on the floor after a loose ball, Posey's your guy. If you need a clutch three, Posey's your guy. If you need a player who can guard three different positions, Posey's your guy. If you need a homo-erotic hug that makes every fan sitting in the first ten rows (at least) slightly uncomfortable, Posey's definitely your guy.

More than anything, Posey's on this list because he did whatever it took to get the C's wins. He fought for every inch, he never stepped outside his role, and I believe 100% that the Celtics wouldn't have won the 2008 championship without James Posey. Posey was only in Celtics green for one year, but he left an indelible mark as a tough competitor and, above all else, a winner.

2. Kevin Garnett - Even before Garnett became a Celtic, he was one of my favorite players.  I loved that he wore his heart on his sleeve, that he couldn't accept losing, and that he played as hard as any human ever has.  I loved him most of all for his interview with John Thompson, when a frustrated Garnett didn't demand a trade or sulk... no, he cried because he hates to lose, he blamed himself for the losses, and he stood by his teammates even as the wheels fell off in Minnesota.

I once wrote I love KG not only because he not only plays the game with unrivaled intensity and plays every play like it might be his last, but also because he demands that same kind of effort from every one of his teammates.  He's the rare leader who inspires his teammates to bigger and better things simply by being himself.

1. Paul Pierce - Who else could it be?  Pierce has been the Celtics' rock, their heart, and their soul since being drafted in the 1998 Draft.  Just like me, Pierce has experienced the Celtics during mediocrity, poverty and prosperity.  Pierce has been through the ups and downs in Boston, and seeing his career validated by winning an NBA championship was made all the sweeter by knowing that, just like me, Pierce has stayed with the C's during tough times and overcome those hardships. 

Knowing what it felt like to root for a team that won only 24 games, I can only imagine what it must have felt like for Pierce to actually play for that team.  He deserves the success as much as anyone in Boston, and will always be the player I remember as my absolute favorite.


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