The Boston Celtics won their first NBA title in 1957, in an era where they absolutely annihilated the competition, winning 11 championships in 13 years, and eight consecutive crowns from 1959-1966. The Celtics featured a lineup of Hall of Famers, including Bob Cousy, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, Tommy Heinsohn and Bill Russell. Boston was coached by legendary head coach Red Auerbach and were so unparalleled in talent that they defeated the Lakers all six times they met in the Finals during the ’60s, despite the Lakers’ dynamic duo of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Not even the addition of Wilt Chamberlain was enough for this Lakers team to defeat Boston. Tragically, neither West nor Baylor was able to beat the Celtics for championships in their respective careers.
How were the Celtics so dominant during this period? For starters, the league only consisted of 8 or 9 teams throughout Boston’s first dynasty. It was also an era before free agency or the modern salary cap even existed. In order to get some idea of what this meant, take the current hoopla over the “Summit” that D-Wade, LeBron James, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh and the rest of the top free agents are supposedly planning on attending. If they had the option of playing on the same team and decided to do so, I believe their team would have dynamics very similar to the Celtics team I just mentioned. But my intention isn’t to diminish or take anything away from the Celtics for what they accomplished during this period. In fact, Boston’s front office was often praised, deservedly so, for recognizing superior talent and maximizing it to its full extent.
It wasn’t until 1984 when the modern salary cap was instituted to level the playing field and ensure greater parity for the league. Although Boston still managed to win titles in 1984 and 1986, the competitive balance started to shift, and Boston could no longer dominate as they had before, evidenced by the 22 year gap between the Celtics last two titles.
Next: The Renewal of a Rivalry