The Celtics needed a win to clinch a playoff berth, and a win it would be against the lowly Milwaukee Bucks. The game was close, with the Celtics leading by two points with just under five minutes to play. Then the unthinkable happened. The Celtics pulled away to a 15 point lead and held onto the win, and even with a playoff berth clinched, the Celtics still have work to do.
The Celtics were 15 games under .500, and in a bit of a funk. (They couldn’t win on the road, and were coming off an embarrassing loss to the Sixers.) Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ team president, knew he needed to pull off the unthinkable: trade Kevin Garnett. And the deal that almost did happen would have had him trading all-star point guard Rajon Rondo to the Clippers, and for former Celtic Glen Davis to the Celtics. Davis was a backup center, a role he still was filling when he was traded.
The Celtics went down 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Eastern Conference Finals, before trades got the Cs back into the series. And even after they were 2-0 down, the Cs raced to a 3-3 series tie, before losing the next two games and going down 4-2. But then, the strangest trade in NBA history helped the Cs to victory.. Read more about celtics trade and let us know what you think.
With 17 titles, the Boston Celtics are tied for the most in the NBA. In 2020, the Los Angeles Lakers equaled them, and the Celtics had only won six championships since 1969. However, for many years, Boston was the NBA’s most decorated team. It’s easy to forget how close something was to disappearing.
It’s tough to comprehend the NBA’s financial difficulties after combining with the ABA in 1976, when every team is valued at more than $1 billion. The NBA’s most recent season with sold-out attendance was 2018–19, with an average of 17,853 spectators per game. Teams averaged 11,446 spectators per game in 1977–78, even without the luxury of a multibillion-dollar television deal. There were few franchisees that were not experiencing financial difficulties.
The Celtics were on the verge of switching coasts due to this and a poor geographical fit.
In 1977–78, the Boston Celtics were on a losing streak.
During a game at the Boston Garden on Nov. 14, 1974, Boston Celtics Jo Jo White, right, drives around Buffalo Braves Gar Heard, left. | Getty Images/Dan Goshtigian/The Boston Globe
The Boston Celtics were the most dominant dynasty in North American sports in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Celtics won 11 of 13 championships between 1957 and 1969, including eight in a row at one point. The Celtics returned to the playoffs in 1972 after a few of years of retooling, and won championships in 1974 and 1976.
In 1972, Irv Levin, a film producer from Los Angeles, purchased a controlling stake in the Celtics. Even with the team’s success, he wasn’t a popular owner in Boston, and by 1978, he wanted out. Levin wanted a club closer to home, according to the New York Times, and spoke about establishing one in San Diego.
Moving the Celtics would have resulted in a protracted legal battle with the NBA. Nothing indicates a league is in trouble like its most successful team relocating 3,000 miles to a place where pro basketball has failed twice. In 1977–78, Boston had a poor club, finishing 32–50 in John Havlicek’s last season. The squad slipped as the nucleus of Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, and Havlicek became older.
Paul Westphal, the only young talent Boston selected during that time, was dealt to the Phoenix Suns for Charlie Scott, a transaction that hasn’t aged well.
Fortunately for Levin, another failing business in worse condition than his was available.
The Buffalo Braves were on the lookout for a way out.
The transient In 1970, the Buffalo Braves joined the NBA. From 1974 through 1976, the club made three postseason appearances in eight years. However, in 1976, the company’s ownership changed. To enable the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, future Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown paid $3 million to fold his ABA franchise in Louisville. He used part of that cash to purchase the Braves.
Brown had reduced the club to its skeletons in only two years. He dealt talents Bob McAdoo and Jim McMillian, dismissed Adrian Dantley as soon as he showed potential, and the Braves were terrible by 1977–78. The Braves were searching for a new home after a 27-win season. The cities of Dallas, Miami, Birmingham, and Minneapolis were all considered.
Then there’s Irv Levin. He aspired to buy a club in San Diego, close to his home in Los Angeles. The Atlanta Braves were on the lookout for a new home. Levin and Brown devised a scheme in which they would swap franchises. There would be no money exchanged, and the Braves would be on their way to San Diego. The issues have been resolved.
As history would have it, the Braves’ star-crossed franchise was just getting started.
The Boston Celtics were eager to move on.
During a news conference at the Boston Garden on July 11, 1978, Boston Celtics general manager Red Auerbach, left, and John Y. Brown Jr., the new owner of the Boston Celtics, talk. | Getty Images/Joe Runci/The Boston Globe
Red Auerbach, the general manager of the Boston Celtics, was furious with Brown right away. Without informing the basketball folks, Levin and Brown negotiated a seven-player deal. To acquire the fading McAdoo, Brown also surrendered three first-round selections.
Auerbach was on the verge of taking over the New York Knicks in 1979 as a result of the events. Brown only controlled the squad for a year before selling it to Harry Mangurian.
In San Diego, the Braves became the Clippers, where they played for six seasons and attracted large audiences. In 1981, Levin sold to Donald Sterling. Sterling relocated the Clippers to Los Angeles without the league’s permission and controlled the team until he was forced to sell it in 2014.
The Braves-Celtics trade was not unheard of in professional sports. Carroll Rosenbloom, the owner of the Baltimore Colts, sold his club to Bob Irsay in 1972 and became the owner of the Los Angeles Rams. Rosenbloom was pleased since the transaction saved him $4.4 million in taxes.
The Boston Celtics were unaffected by the upheaval, winning three championships in the 1980s and a fourth in 2008. But how close were we to talking about Clippers great Larry Bird’s legacy? Red Auerbach, the Knicks’ savior? Indeed, it’s a lot closer than any Boston fan likes to think about for too long.
Basketball Reference provided the historical data.
Larry Bird Returned Bill Walton’s Life: ‘You Have Not Spent Six Years of Your Life on the Clippers,’ he said.
It’s not often that I get a chance to write about my favorite NBA team, the Boston Celtics. But when I do, it’s always an enjoyable experience.. Read more about boston celtics roster and let us know what you think.
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