Ten numbers the Celtics should never have retired

Gordon Hayward will be issued the number 20 and this marks the first time somebody will wear it for the Boston Celtics since Ray Allen.

This sparked a bit of conversation because there are some people out there who believed that it should have been retired for Allen, others think that would be crazy because he spent just five years with the franchise before taking his talents to South Beach to join LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Both sides actually have valid points because if you compare what Allen did to a lot of other players who had their numbers retired, he honestly stacks up very well against a good chunk of the list. That being said, you can also make a really strong argument that Antoine Walker was a better Celtic then a number of player who have had the honor of seeing their number lifted to the TD Garden rafters.

Long story short, Allen shouldn’t have his number retired and a many more numbers need to come down.

Here’s a list of ten.

#1 Walter Brown
The Celtics retired this number in honor of the team’s founder and original owner. Brown inherited the Boston Garden from his father and decided that there should be a basketball team in the building to join the Bruins. He never played a game or wore a uniform, but they still decided to retire this for him because number one represents that he is the most important figure in franchise history.

#2 Red Auerbach
Here is another guy who never put on a uniform or played a game for the Boston Celtics. The meaning behind picking number two was that Auerbach was the second most important figure in franchise history behind Brown. There’s no questioning his greatness, Auerbach won nine titles as head coach and an additional seven after stepping down from that post but continuing on as general manager. But as great as he was, there has to be a better way to honor him then completely inventing a number.

#5 Kevin Garnett
We’re jumping ahead a little bit with this one here. It seems pretty clear that this is the direction Boston is going in after denying Amir Johnson the chance to wear number five, which he will be rocking next season with the Philadelphia 76ers. Garnett probably meant a little more to this team than Ray Allen in terms of talent, but he was only there for one extra season. And by the end of the run, he was a total shell of himself and far removed from the 31-year old veteran who Danny Ainge had traded for in 2007. He averaged just 14.8 PPG in that last year with the Celtics and dipped below eight rebounds per game, very far off from a man who once led the NBA in rebounds for four straight seasons in his prime and is the current all-time leader in total defensive rebounds.

#16 Satch Sanders
He played 13 seasons for the Celtics and was on eight championship winning teams but he averaged just 9.6 PPG and was never an All-Star or All-NBA player. His coaching career was even worse. Boston hired him as an assistant coach for the 1977-78 season and he was promoted to head coach about halfway through the year after Tommy Heinsohn resigned. Sanders went 21-27 to end that season and was fired after opening the 1978-79 season with a 2-12 mark, giving him a total head coaching record of 23-39. In 1986 he did start a rookie transition program, which has now been copied by the rest of the major sports leagues in North America. Heading that program got him elected to the Hall of Fame as a “contributor” in 2011.

#19 Don Nelson
This number was basically retired for a guy who was slightly better than Kendrick Perkins. Nelson holds the record for wins as a head coach and was rightfully inducted into the Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in that field. But Nelson never coached the Celtics and isn’t in the Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a player. The power forward averaged 11.4 PPG and 5.2 RPG during his 11 seasons in Boston and they won five championships over that stretch, the issue is that Nelson never made a single All-Star team in his entire 14 year playing career. For those curious, the NBA has held an All-Star game every year since 1951 and Nelson didn’t start playing professionally until 1962; just incase you thought he might have pre-dated the event.

#22 Ed Macauley
The first “star” player in Celtics history was Macauley, but he only played six seasons for the team and never won a championship with them. He was name MVP of the very first All-Star Game in 1951 but just a few years later he was traded to the St. Louis Hawks for the draft rights to Bill Russell. If you don’t think Ray Allen should have his number retired because he was only there for five years, that extra season shouldn’t get Macauley anything more. They were both Hall of Fame caliber talents, but neither fully deserves to have their number hanging from the rafters at the TD Garden.

#23 Frank Ramsey
The Celtics website has a list of all their retired numbers to go along with little descriptions of what everybody did. All of these short biographies start with the number of years they played with the team and how many title winners they played for, but after that it goes on to tell me that Ramsey “led the Celtics in games played in 1958-59 and in 1960-61” and that he “led the team in Free Throws Made in 1957-58.” Is that how they want me to remember this guy? He did average 13.4 PPG during his career – which is higher then a number of people they retired numbers for – but he never even made an All-Star game as he wound up racking up seven titles as a solid player with a stacked team around him.

#32 Kevin McHale
This will probably be the most controversial name on this list, but he’s really not that much greater than a guy like Antoine Walker. The big difference is that McHale had Robert Parish and Larry Bird around him for his entire career while Walker was brought into a crappy Celtics team, had to play through the Rick Pitino years and only really caught Paul Pierce at the beginning of his career. Walker averaged 20.8 PPG and 8.7 RPG during his seven and half seasons with the Celtics while McHale – who played the same position of power forward – averaged 17.9 and 7.3. McHale is arguably the best “sixth man” in NBA history, but you don’t see too many players like get their numbers retired. He started a majority of his appearances just four times in his 13 seasons, only one of which ended with a championship. McHale was a great defensive player who was named First Team All-Defense on three occasions and Second Team All-Defense another three times, but he was named to an All-NBA team just once in his career.

#35 Reggie Lewis
It’s really tragic that Lewis passed away at the age of 27, just six years into his NBA career. There’s still no reason for the team to go all out and honor him by putting his number up in the rafters. The Celtics probably realize this too as they offered the number to Kevin Durant while courting him last year so you already know that it’s a number they’re willing to bend the rules a bit with. It’s hard to project how great Lewis would have been if he was able to have a full career. He had averaged a career high 20.8 PPG in his final season and was just entering his prime. Lewis had also made one All-Star team before his passing. He probably would have been a really good player but it doesn’t appear that he was on the path to being a Hall of Fame caliber talent or anything.

LOSCY Jim Loscutoff
Loscutoff asked that the team not retire his number so other can wear it, so they settled for hanging his nickname “LOSCY” on the retired number banners up in the rafters. For starters, if you’re ever afraid of unretiring numbers you can just put a name in place of it and explain it away as “well it’s not the first time we’ve done this.” I guess it’s hard to put Loscutoff on this list because he’s not actually taking up a number, but hypothetically if he did it would still be wrong to have him in a group with the likes of Larry Bird and Bill Russell. He’s not a Hall of Famer, missed at least ten games in five of his nine seasons and he averaged double-figures in scoring just once.


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