In the NBA’s rich history, the 1985-86 Boston Celtics are among the few teams remembered for their exceptional performance and dominance. Other great teams like the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, the 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers, and the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors are often discussed, but the ’85-’86 Celtics are considered at the top of basketball greatness.
Triumphs and Setbacks
The Celtics’ path to success started with their victory over the Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals. They aimed to win again in the ’85 season, but the Lakers retaliated and won in six games. However, this setback fueled their determination to improve, especially their bench strength.
Strategic Move – Bill Walton Joins the Fold
Bill Walton, a veteran and oft-injured center, was brought in through a calculated trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. This decision was crucial, turning the Celtics into a powerful team.
The team was led by the legendary Larry Bird, who had just completed two back-to-back MVP seasons. The starting lineup included four players who would later be inducted into the Hall of Fame – Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Dennis Johnson.
Drafting and Trading to Build a Dynasty
The Celtics were built through smart player selection and clever trades. Notably, the team secured Parish and McHale through a crafty deal with the Warriors in the 1980 NBA Draft. The addition of Johnson, who they got from the Phoenix Suns in 1983, made their team even stronger.
Walton, Sichting, and the Celtics’ Bench Brilliance
Bill Walton’s addition gave the bench the depth it needed, reducing the burden on Parish and McHale. Walton’s contribution was more than numbers, making him the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. The Celtics also strategically added Jerry Sichting, a sharpshooting guard, to enhance their bench power.
Team Dynamics – “We” Before “Me”
What made the ’85-’86 Celtics unique was their unity as a team, where individual sacrifices led to team success. Even though Larry Bird was undoubtedly the top player in the league, the team didn’t solely rely on him, unlike the 1995-96 Bulls’ dependence on Michael Jordan. The Celtics had four real stars, each showing remarkable unselfishness.
Kevin McHale emphasized the team’s ethos of; “It’s the ‘we’ before ‘me,” highlighting the importance of enjoying teammates’ success.
During an episode of the “Cedric Maxwell Podcast, ” McHale told Cedric Maxwell; If you can’t enjoy your teammates’ success, you’re in the wrong business.
Legacy of Sacrifice – Parish’s Unheralded Contributions
Robert Parish echoed this sentiment, recognizing the need for changes for the team’s success. His modest behavior and focus on teamwork over individual stats exemplified the selflessness that was a part of the Celtics’ ethos. The ’85-’86 Celtics flourished through team harmony in a league often defined by individual awards.
Overcoming Adversity – The 1986-87 Season
Injuries plagued the ’86-’87 season, with Walton playing only 10 regular-season games and McHale battling through the playoffs with a fractured foot. Despite these setbacks, the Celtics pushed the Lakers to six games in the 1987 NBA Finals, showcasing their resilience and determination.
The Perfect Season – Talent, Depth, and Teamwork
For one glorious season, everything fell into place for Boston. The Celtics of ’85-’86 were a complete package – they had talent, depth, unselfishness, and a commitment to team success.
Their legacy endures as a tribute to the golden age of NBA basketball, securing their position in history as one of the finest teams ever to play the game.
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