As noted in an earlier post, Grandpa Celtic, Bob Ryan, compiled a list of the 10 greatest Celtics teams of all time. He ranks the 2008 squad second all-time behind the 1986 team. I cast doubt on Mr. Ryan's list in part because the ''74, '76, and '81 championship teams are excluded from it, while the '73, '85, and '87 bannerless teams made the cut.
Another notable omission from the Ryan list is the 1963-64 World Champion Celtics. Bill Russell still calls that squad the greatest defensive team in the history of professional basketball.
Below is a five-team list compiled by a long-time Celtics fan, Bob Kimball, who writes for USA Today. The best Celtics team of all time, according to Kimball, is listed first.
1985-86 -- Armed with Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale -- the top frontcourt in NBA history and Boston's 1980s version of the Big Three -- this green team went 50-1 on the parquet floor. The Celtics finished 67-15, then won 15 of 18 in the playoffs to lay claim to the mantle as the NBA's greatest team.
1964-65 -- Bill Russell won the last of his five MVP awards and anchored a 62-18 regular-season team that wound up winning its division by 14 games. The postseason was saved by John Havlicek's steal in Game7 of the Eastern finals against Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers before the Celts rolled past the Lakers in five games for the championship.
1973-74 -- The first title team without Russell, this bunch included Havlicek as an All-NBA and All-Defensive star leading a squad that went 56-26 and upset the Milwaukee Bucks in a thrilling seven-game Finals. Dave Cowens and Paul Silas were the rebounders, and Jo Jo White had a mean jumper.
1959-60 -- This power-packed squad featured nine Hall of Famers, including seven players, the coach and the owner en route to its second of eight consecutive titles. With forward Tom Heinsohn as high scorer and Russell averaging 24 rebounds, the Celts averaged a league-high 124.5 points, 8.5 points more than they surrendered.
2007-08 -- From 24-58 and last in the East to 66-16 and first in the world, the newest champions pulled the greatest one-season improvement in history and punctuated the title by burying the Los Angeles Lakers by 39 points in the most one-sided clincher ever. Of course, the offseason merger of newcomers Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett with Paul Pierce helped.