How Warriors, Bay Area helped Celtics win all 17 of their NBA titles

It’s fair to say the Golden State Warriors, through some inconsistent play in the NBA Finals, have unintentionally helped the Celtics move closer to a record 18th NBA championship.

One can also say Boston receiving assistance from Bay Area folks when it’s most needed is just history repeating itself. Again.

There’s a pile of evidence showing the Celtics didn’t become the most storied franchise in NBA history of their own doing. Whenever the Celtics needed a helping hand over the years, the Warriors and the Bay Area have always been there for them.

Go ahead and trace the roots of each of the Celtics’ record-tying 17 NBA championship trophies and you’ll find they’re deeply grounded here in the Bay Area.

Every. Single. One.

From Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Paul Silas, Paul Pierce and even Larry Bird, these great Celtics all came by way – or by sway – from our Bay to the Back Bay to collect championships.

Bill Russell, left, star of the Boston Celtics is congratulated by coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach after scoring his 10,000th point in the NBA game against the Baltimore Bullets in Boston Garden in a Dec. 12, 1964, photo. (AP Photo/file)
Bill Russell, left, star of the Boston Celtics is congratulated by coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach after scoring his 10,000th point in the NBA game against the Baltimore Bullets in Boston Garden in a Dec. 12, 1964, photo. (AP Photo/file)

Celtics legendary coach Red Auerbach isn’t just known for chomping on victory cigars. He was the architect of 16 of Boston’s championships.

“There’s a correlation between all those players — they’re great guys. Red brought in guys he thought would fit the mold of the Celtics,” said Garry St. Jean, a former Warriors coach and general manager.

Here’s how the aforementioned elite Celtics contributed to all those green and white championship banners in TD Garden’s rafters:

Title Nos. 1-11: Russell’s fingerprints were all over the Celtics’ first 11 title trophies. The former McClymonds High of Oakland and University of San Francisco star established himself as perhaps the game’s greatest player after arriving in 1956. (We’ll explain later how the Ice Capades – yes, the Ice Capades – helped the Celtics get Russell). Jones, his USF teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, also played an integral role in eight straight of those championships (1959-66).

Title Nos. 12-13: Silas was another defensive-minded All-Star from McClymonds who arrived in a trade from Phoenix. The Suns lost a lot of defensive tenacity and watched Silas help deliver two more titles to Boston in 1974 and ’76.

Title Nos. 14-16: Parish and McHale came to Boston courtesy of the Warriors in one of the greatest NBA trade heists ever. Together, they teamed with Bird for three championships (1981, ’84 and ’86). Boston’s coach for the title runs in ‘84 and ’86? None other than K.C. Jones.

The Warriors also played a part in Bird joining Boston, since they decided selecting Bird in ’78 — and having him miss a year to finish playing at Indiana State — was too risky and opted for the safer choice of drafting Purvis Short.

Title No. 17: The 2008 championship year was a throwback to title No. 1 almost 50 years earlier – one of Boston’s big stars was from Oakland. Pierce was born in Oakland before his family moved down to Inglewood. More local influence in ’08 came from a couple of bench players: Eddie House from Hayward High and Leon Powe of Oakland Tech.

St. Jean, the Warriors GM in 1998, admits he should have brought Pierce back to Oakland. But they took Antawn Jamison with the No. 4 pick, allowing Pierce to become the No. 10 pick for Boston, where he was the finals MVP in ‘08.

“I loved Paul Pierce but I wound up listening to my scouts,” St. Jean said during a phone interview Thursday. “I remember interviewing Paul and he said, ‘I’d like to play here.’ … We should have taken Pierce.”

Title No. 18? If the Warriors wind up losing this series next week, Boston’s would-be record 18th NBA title would again feature a Bay Area twist – star swingman Jaylen Brown was a former star at Cal. Don’t forget, coach Ime Udoka would join Jones as the second former USF player to coach a title-winning team in Boston.

If you’re still looking for a blueprint to Boston’s successes over the decades (aside from the Bay Area connections), try focusing on its trade history. The Celtics’ ability to assemble elite teams through one-sided trades has been as much a part of the team’s history as its fabled parquet floor.

Trades don’t get any more lopsided than the one the Celtics pulled off before the 1956 draft, when they dealt two players for St. Louis’ second overall pick, then gave financially struggling Rochester, which had the No. 1 pick, an offer it couldn’t refuse. As the story goes, Boston owner Walter Brown, who also was a part owner of the profitable Ice Capades, guaranteed Rochester’s owner he’d make sure the ice skating show come to his arena for two weeks each winter – as long as Rochester didn’t pick Russell.

It was the kind of shrewd move St. Jean loved to see while growing up as a Celtics fanatic in Chicopee, Mass. But as an NBA coach and GM, he knew better than to deal with Boston.

“You didn’t want to call Boston and if Red called the office it was like, ‘Christ, what the hell does he want now?’ “ St. Jean said.

Auerbach saved the second-biggest heist of his career for the Warriors. In 1980, he gave the Warriors the Nos. 1 and 13 picks — which became Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown — for Parish and the No. 3 pick (Kevin McHale), two guys who would go on to Hall of Fame careers.

“That trade sure gave the Celtics one of the greatest trios of all time, didn’t it?” longtime Warriors analyst Jim Barnett said Friday, on the 42nd anniversary of Golden State’s fateful trade.

Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli didn’t have the financial wherewithal to retain talent, as witnessed by allowing future Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry (twice), Nate Thurmond, Bernard King and Jamaal Wilkes to leave because he couldn’t afford them. Parish, who was a year from restricted free agency, wanted to be the next man out of town. Auerbach made sure it happened, altering the fate of the two franchises for decades.

Now, just because the Celtics had money to spend didn’t mean Auerbach willingly spent it. Barnett, Boston’s No. 1 pick (eighth overall) in 1966, was a bit more pointed about the old man’s ways.

“Red was the cheapest S.O.B. in the history of basketball, and you can quote me on that,” said Barnett, adding that he once got chewed out by Auerbach for giving a cab driver “too large of a tip” — it was $1 on a $6.50 fare.

Barnett vividly remembers an intimidating meeting with Auerbach in his office to discuss his first contract.

Curiously, Auerbach began by reading a letter aloud from the agent for Boston’s second-round pick, Leon Clark. Scoffing at Clark’s request for a two-year, $40,000 guaranteed deal, Auerbach ripped up the letter and tossed it in the trash.

Auerbach then turned to an intimidated Barnett, looked him in the eyes and said, “What we had in mind for you is …”

Not waiting for Auerbach to finish his sentence, Barnett blurted out, ‘I’ll take it.”

That’s how Barnett became the lowest-paid first-round draft pick in the NBA that year with an under-market contract of $11,000.

“You didn’t play for money those days,” Barnett said. “The main thing was you got to play in the NBA, something you dreamed about as a kid.”

Contributed by local news sources

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