Founded in 1946, the Boston Celtics rose to prominence during the 1950s and 1960s and went on to become one of basketball’s greatest teams. Their record 17 NBA Championships are the most for any NBA franchise. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, the Celtics (who play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference) dominated the league from 1957 to 1969 by winning 11 championships in 13 years. They hold the record for the longest consecutive championship streak of any North American professional sports team winning eight championships in a row between the years 1959-1966.
The Boston Celtics became part of the National Basketball Association in 1949 and was the first franchise to draft an African American player when they signed Chuck Cooper. The early years were a struggle for the Celtics until they hired coach Red Auerback. Auerback, who had coached in the military during WWII, built the champion Celtics for more than a decade by drafting great players and making smart trades. One of his best picks was University of San Francisco center, Bill Russell, who helped the Celtics win 11 championships in his 13 seasons. After retiring as a player, Russell became the first black coach in the NBA.
The Celtics won the first of their record 17 NBA Championships by defeating the St. Louis Hawks in seven games during the 1957 NBA Finals. Although losing the Finals to the Hawks in 1958, the Celtics swept the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1959 NBA Championships and went on to win seven more consecutive championships. This marked the beginning of an intense rivalry with the Lakers as these two teams would meet often in the Finals.
During the 1970s, Tom Heinsohn coached the Celtics, rebuilt the team, and led them to the 1974 and 1976 NBA Championship. The 1976 Finals would be remembered as one of the greatest games in the history of the NBA as the Celtics prevailed after an unprecedented third overtime game against the Phoenix Suns. The late 1970s would see Auerback make a number of moves that would bring the Celtics back to prominence. During the 1979-80 season, Larry Bird of Indiana State made his debut with the team. He would go on to win NBA Rookie of the Year, and with the help from his talented frontcourt teammates, Dave Cowens and Cedric Maxwell, the Celtics improved and had the best single-season turnaround in NBA history with a 61-21 record.
Under coach Bill Fitch, and despite losing center Dave Cowens to retirement, the Celtics captured the 1981 NBA Championship over the Houston Rockets. Cedric Maxwell was named NBA Finals MVP. After Fitch resigned, K.C. Jones took over as coach during the 1983-84 season. They got back to the NBA Finals and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win their 15th championship. At this time Auerback retired as General Manager but remained team President.
The Celtics and Lakers would meet again in 1985 with the Lakers for the first time defeating Boston for the championship. It was also the first time the Celtics would lose the championship at Boston Garden. During the 1985-86 season, the Celtics proved to be one of the best teams in NBA history by winning 67 games and going 40-1 at the Boston Garden. Larry Bird won his third consecutive MVP award as the franchise won its 16th championship by defeating the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.
Although the Celtics remained competitive, head coach K.C. Jones retired after the 1987-88 season and was replaced by assistant Jimmy Rodgers. He was soon fired after the Celtics collapsed during the playoffs against the New York Knicks. Chris Ford became the new coach and the Celtics improved to 56-26 during the 1990-91 season. The 1994-95 season would be the final season in the Boston Garden as the Celtics moved into the Fleet Center now known as the TD Garden.
The team declined in 1996-97 as the Celtics lost a franchise record 67 games, but improved during the 2000-01 season under coach Jim O’Brien. The Celtics started the 2008-09 season at 27-2 which became the best starting record in NBA history. They also had a franchise record 19-game winning streak. The team would go on to win the 2008 NBA title against the Lakers. To date, their 17 NBA Championships has made the Celtics one of the most consistent winning franchises in the NBA.