The Boston Celtics have been playing in the NBA since 1946. Over that time, nearly 500 different players have put on the green and white uniform. Twenty of those players have had their number retired by the team and 17 are in the sports’ Hall of Fame. In the course of winning 17 NBA championships, the Celtics have featured legendary players such as Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Larry Bird as well as more recent superstars like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some lean years in Boston between the two Big Three eras and even a little beyond. From the 1999-00 season until the team’s new found success under coach Brad Stevens, the Celtics’ roster was one of constant change as the franchise tried, unsuccessfully, to construct a team around Pierce and then rebuild. So even the hardcore Celtics fans could be excused if they don’t remember every player that passed through Boston during this largely forgettable period, whether it was a fading former star, a player with an expiring contract that was just there to fill out the roster. If you’re one of those fans, then you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane as we look at 15 players you probably forgot played for the Boston Celtics.
15 Stephon Marbury
Stephon Marbury has had an interesting basketball career that has brought him from his childhood home of Brooklyn to places like Minnesota, Phoenix, and now China where he has found his own version of success. He's arguably the most famous athlete in all of the country.
Before entering the Chinese Basketball Association, Starbury played his final NBA season with the Boston Celtics in February 2009 following his buyout from the New York Knicks. Boston was in the midst of its title defense, adding Marbury to a the point guard depth chart that included Rajon Rondo and Eddie House. Over 23 regular season games with the Celtics, Marbury averaged 18 minutes and just under 4 points per game. While his last NBA stop was forgettable, his run in China has been legendary.
14 Tayshaun Prince
Tayshaun Prince will be remembered most for his time with the Detroit Pistons in the early 2000s where he was a defensive standout for a team that ultimately won the 2004 championship.
In 2013 the Pistons traded Prince to the Memphis Grizzlies but he would eventually return to Detroit in 2015. However, before he was sent back to the Motor City Prince played nine games for the Boston Celtics in January and February of 2015. The Celtics acquired Prince in the three team deal also involving the New Orleans Pelicans that sent Jeff Green to Memphis and also brought Austin Rivers to the Celtics only to have him flipped to the Los Angeles Clippers days later.
Prince averaged 8.4 points during his brief stint with the Green.
13 Raef LaFrentz
Raef LaFrentz had a very successful four-year career at the University of Kansas from both an individual and team standpoint. He played alongside future Celtic great Paul Pierce before they were both selected in the 1998 NBA draft. LaFrentz was taken by the Denver Nuggets with the third overall pick. He played six seasons with Denver and the Dallas Mavericks, averaging highs of 15 points and 8 rebounds, before joining Pierce in Boston for the 2003-04 season.
The Celtics acquired LaFrentz in the trade that marked the first exit for Antoine Walker from Boston and also brought Chris Mills and Jiri Welsch to the team. In his three seasons, LaFrentz never came close to the numbers he produced earlier in his career and was eventually traded in 2006 and out of the NBA two years after that.
12 Michael Finley
A two-time All-Star, Michael Finley had a productive NBA career that included stops with the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs where he won a championship in 2007.
Finley's final NBA season was with the Celtics for the end of the 2009-10 season. After being waived by the Spurs in March, Finley signed with Boston and played 21 games down the stretch of the regular season where he averaged 5.2 points in 15 minutes per game. He had a very limited role during Boston's playoff run that ultimately ended in a seven game defeat in the Finals at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers. To no one's surprise the Celtics chose not to re-sign him following their playoff run, making his Boston stint very forgettable.
11 Bruce Bowen
Most NBA fans probably think of Bruce Bowen as the lockdown defender that won three championships with the San Antonio Spurs. They would be right in doing so, but few fans likely remember how Bowen's professional career started.
After a four-year college career at Cal State Fullerton, Bowen declared for the 1993 NBA draft but was not selected. Instead he went overseas and spent four years playing professionally in France and China before finally being signed by the Miami Heat in 1997 where he played in exactly one game.
Starting with the 1997-98 NBA season, Bowen played 91 games for the Boston Celtics as a bench player averaging 5.6 then 2.3 points per game during his two seasons. It was as a member of the Celtics that Bowen would set his career high in steals average with 1.4 per game in the 1998-99 season.
10 Bimbo Coles
Bimbo Coles is a name that some NBA fans may remember simply for the nickname "Bimbo." But more probable than not is the fact that few could recall the journeyman backup point guard played for the Boston Celtics during the end of the 2002-03 season.
Coles joined along with veterans Mark Bryant and Grant Long, joining leaders Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker, and Vin Baker. In 14 games, Coles averaged 3.7 points and would go on to appear in three playoff games before Boston was eliminated by the New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The following season would be Coles' last, playing just over 20 games with the Miami Heat. He had a decent career, but no Celtics fan would be faulted if they forgot Coles wore green.
9 Joseph Forte
Joseph Forte was a draft bust for the Celtics when he was taken 21st overall in 2001, ahead of future stars Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas (and future Celtics hero Brian Scalabrine). There were high expectations for guard after two productive years at the University of North Carolina where he was the ACC Rookie of the Year, a first team All-American, and the 2001 ACC co-player of the year with Duke's Shane Battier.
Forte only appeared in eight games for Boston, averaging 0.8 points and 0.8 assists per game before he was traded in 2002. The Celtics sent Forte, Kenny Anderson, and Vitaly Potapenko to the Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for Vin Baker and Shammond Williams. In Seattle, Forte only played 17 games before he was out of the NBA.
8 Dan Dickau
Dan Dickau is another example of a great college player that made his way to Boston for a forgettable Celtics career. In two seasons at Gonzaga, Dickau was WCC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. He was then drafted 28th overall in the 2002 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings, ahead of Carlos Boozer, Matt Barnes, and Luis Scola, and was traded that night to the Atlanta Hawks.
Dickau played for the Hawks, Trail Blazers, Mavericks and Hornets before being traded to the Celtics in 2005 for a second round pick. The point guard appeared in 19 games for Boston before he was again traded, this time along with Randy Foye and Raef LaFrentz to the Portland Trail Blazers for Theo Ratliff and Sebastian Telfair. Speaking of those two...
7 Theo Ratliff
Theo Ratliff may be one of the most important players in Celtics' history. He cemented his legacy by appearing in just two games, registering five points, seven rebounds and four blocks during his "career" in Boston.
His biggest contribution to the history of the franchise is for "Theo Ratliff's Expiring Contract," a phrase that became widely used during trade rumors as one of the Celtics more valuable assets. Ratliff the player was a useful center, experienced as a rim protector. But still, it was is contract that made him an intricate piece in the trade that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007. While fans won't remember what Ratliff did while he was on the court, they'll be forever grateful for his contract playing a part in landing KG.
6 Sebastian Telfair
Sebastian Telfair was a player that came with a lot of hype and had high expectations leveled on him at an early age. In high school, he was on magazine covers and was a top-10 college recruit in 2004. Telfair chose to skip college and make the jump to the NBA, getting drafted 13th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Telfair wasn't quite given a chance in Portland, alternating between a backup and starting point guard and never showing enough flashes to match the hype. In 2006, after two years in Portland, Telfair was dealt to Boston. He played 78 games in the 2006-07 season, averaging 6.1 points and just under three assists while sharing point guard duties with Rajon Rondo and Delonte West. Like Theo Ratliff, Telfair made his biggest contribution by being included in the Kevin Garnett trade.
5 Tom Gugliotta
Tom Gugliotta had a strong 13 year NBA career that included one All-Star game appearance and consistently averaging about 13 points and 7 rebounds per game during the first half of his career. Arriving in the league in 1992, he had good years in Washington and Minnesota.
However, Gugliotta was past his prime and injuries had set him back even further by the time he signed with Boston in 2004 which may be why few recall his time with the Celtics. That year, the team finished third in the conference but was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Indiana Pacers. Gugliotta played in 20 regular season games averaging 1.3 points before he was traded in February in the deal that brought Antoine Walker back to Boston.
4 Joel Anthony
As an undersized center, Joel Anthony has carved out an NBA career for himself by being a dependable rebounder and proficient shot blocker primarily in a backup role. He enjoyed seven seasons with the Miami Heat, winning two championships once LeBron James and Chris Bosh arrived in 2010.
In January 2014 he was involved in a three team trade that landed him in Boston. Anthony joined a Celtics team that was in the middle of its first season without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Doc Rivers since 2007. In 21 games, he averaged one point and 1.5 rebounds per game for a team that ultimately finished 25-57. The following season, he was traded to Detroit where he played for three years before catching on with the San Antonio Spurs.
3 Michael Olowokandi
The 7'0" "Kandi Man" was drafted first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1998, the same year players like Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce were selected. Based on the big numbers he put up in college at the University of the Pacific, Olowokandi came into the NBA with lofty expectations. He never really met those expectations, or even came close, and was ultimately labeled a bust. But as this list has shown, the Celtics of the 2000s specialized in draft busts and roster castoffs.
Olowokandi was included in the 2006 trade with Minnesota that also included Wally Szczerbiak and sent Ricky Davis, Marcus Banks, and Mark Blount to the Timberwolves. Olowokandi would play part of two seasons with Boston, his last in the NBA, posting two points and two rebounds per game in 40 appearances.
2 Gary Payton
Gary Payton will likely be remembered for a lot of different things over the course of his Hall of Fame-calliber career. His nickname "The Glove," his status as one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, his reputation for trash-talking, his selection to nine All-Star games, and his role on the 2006 champion Miami Heat.
Far down on that list will be the 77 games he played as a member of the Boston Celtics in the 2004-05 season, despite scoring 12.4 points and having 6.6 assists per game. The Celtics acquired Payton via trade with Los Angeles in exchange for Chucky Atkins, Jumaine Jones, and Chris Mihm. By February, Payton was included in the trade with Atlanta that returned Antoine Walker to Boston and when the Hawks waived Payton he re-signed with the Celtics. Boston got the most they could out of Payton before falling flat in the playoffs and the point guard moved on to Miami, and a championship, the next year.
1 Darko Milicic
Darko Milicic's name has become synonymous with draft bust after he was taken second overall by the Detroit Pistons in the stacked 2003 draft. The 7' Serbian was taken after LeBron James but before names like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, David West, and Kyle Korver. During three seasons in Detroit, he averaged less than two points and two rebounds per game.
He experienced a slight uptick in production during years with the Minnesota Timberwolves and in 2012 he signed with the Boston Celtics. That season was shaping up to be an interesting one with the departure of Ray Allen and what would turn out to be the final year for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Boston.
Milicic would appear in exactly one game for Boston, recording five minutes of play, collecting one rebound, and blocking two shots. It turned out to be his final game in the NBA after he was released in November for personal reasons and never made it back to the league.