The Boston Celtics are one of the most winning teams of all time. They have 17 championships and have some of the most iconic players ever. They have some of the greatest moments, like John Havlicek’s steal, to Larry Bird’s steal about twenty years later. The Celtics have 17 NBA championships, which is tied with the Los Angeles Lakers as most in league history. However, after the eighties, the Celtics only won one championship. Why is that?
Post Larry Bird era
Anybody that watches or knows anything about the NBA knows how iconic Larry Bird was. He went to five NBA championships and won 3 of them and also has 3 MVP awards. Boston’s last with Bird was in 1986 against Houston. They did make it to the championship the next year but lost to the Lakers.
After that series, they only made it past the first round three times, once in 88 (a loss in conference finals against pistons), in 91 (loss in the second round), and Bird’s last year 1992. This is for two reasons, the declining health of Bird and the rising power of the Pistons and Bulls. This started a dark era in Celtics Basketball, they did make it back to the playoffs the next year, but then they lost Kevin McHale (the second-best player during the Bird era).
After having only winning seasons from 1980-1993, they had losing seasons until the 2001 season. In that time frame, they had one playoff appearance in 1995 (first-round loss). They had two seasons where they lost under 20 games. These Celtics were awful, and the only reason to check them out was a power forward named Antoine Walker.
Besides that, the Celtics really didn’t have any star power besides a couple of good years of Ron Mercer. The lack of star power led to the Celtics going 19-31 in the 1998-99 season. That year also had a rookie Paul Pierce who was good but far from his hall of fame self. Basically, the Celtics had a roster of has-beens and players that might make 1 or 2 all star games in their career, and this will change.
Paul Pierce era
In Paul’s third year (2001), the Celtics made the playoffs and went to the conference finals, and lost in 6 games to New Jersey. We can call this Paul Pierce coming out party. However, this team was far from perfect. They only won 49 games (in a weak Eastern Conference).
Also, this was the first year for Danny Ainge for a GM. The Celtics still need more talent than Walker and Pierce. The next year the Celtics declined and only won 44 games and got swept by the Nets in the second round.
To show how bad this team was, if Walker and Pierce weren’t on the team, the Celtics would have no 10 point average players. This shows that Boston needed more talent and desperately. They did make it back into the playoffs the next year, but they got swept in the first round by the Pacers. Walker left the previous off-season, and Boston only had Pierce. They won 36 games that year.
Doc Rivers became the coach in the 2004-05 season and increased the wins, but the Celtics still got bounced in the first round (7 games to Pacers). For the next two years, the Celtics had losing records and did not make the playoffs. The time was running out for Paul Pierce.
Enter the Big three of Boston.
The Big Three
In the 2007-08 offseason, Danny Ainge and the Celtics traded for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett (who was having his own troubles in Minnesota). This was also the year when Rajon Rondo broke out. It should be no surprise that this Celtics team dominated in the regular season with 66 wins.
This team did have trouble in every playoff series (especially the Cavs), but they beat a Kobe-lead Lakers team and won the finals. This team was one of the greats, and this team would have no problem the next year, but Kevin Garnett got injured and ruined the Celtics’ chances.
However in 2009-10 they made it back to the finals and even forced LeBron James out of Cleveland and went to Mami. They played the Lakers once again and lost in a close 7 games series. They made it back to the playoff next year, but LeBron got his revenge in the second round. The big three were not done yet, they were aging but they had one more run.
In the 2011-12 season, the Celtics made it to the conference finals and held a 3-2 lead on the Heat. However, LeBron and company won the next two games, and LeBron stole the Eastern Conference throne for good. Ray Allen left and went to the Heat, and so the Celtics’ big three was finally over.
2010’s and the Trade
The year after Ray Allen left, the Celtics became mediocre with 41 wins and a first-round exit. They traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets the following off-season. For the short run, the Nets looked like they won, making the playoffs then losing to them. However, in the long run, the Celtics got players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and others from this trade. It, of course, came off the Net’s draft picks they traded.
The Celtics have not been back to the Finals but have made 3 conference finals. Right now, the Celtics are in a spot similar to before the big three. They need to get more talent, or they keep losing in the playoffs. There’s no way the current roster could beat the Nets’ or the Bucks. They need to get more talent, and if they don’t, they will waste Tatum’s career in Boston.
The Celtics have not been a dynasty since the eighties. Boston has had some good years and some bad. However, one thing is true for the demise of the Celtics empire: lack of talent, injuries, and bad luck has held them back. Boston is a historically great team but hasn’t been great in a long time. The Celtics’ main problem is the same for most of the post Bird era lack of talent.