Sending Boston and Philadelphia to Britain for a basketball game is like sending Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn over to Jerry West’s house uninvited for dinner. Hi, here are the people who handed you your worst defeat. Yet, the Celtics face the 76ers at London’s 02 Arena at 3 p.m. EST on Thursday, so I’m here to mix Celtics and British history up for you …
THE CELTICS MONARCHY
Bob Cousy (1950-56) — abdicated
> ˘Bill Russell (1956-69)
> John Havlicek (1969-78)
> Dave Cowens (1978-79) — abdicated
> Larry Bird (1979-92)
> Reggie Lewis (1992-93)
> Dee Brown (1993-98)
> Antoine Walker (1998-99) — abdicated
> Paul Pierce (1999-2013)
> Rajon Rondo (2013-14) — deposed
> Isaiah Thomas (2015-17) — deposed
> Kyrie Irving (2017-)
IF THEY WERE MONARCHS
Bob Cousy = Alfred the Great
Like Big Alfred, Cousy was not the first to lay claim to Celtics rule (there were Connie Simmons, Ed Sadowski, George Kaftan and Bob Kinney before him), but he’s the first of House Auerbach and the unbroken line of Boston kings. They both provided structure, established the rule of law and couldn’t go left. And we’re not positive either was as great as they say.
Bill Russell = Richard the Lionheart
A dominant warrior and leader with a “reputation for terseness,” Russell viewed Boston more as a means to support his armies than a place to rule. I’m pretty sure Richard the Lionheart was undefeated in Game 7s, too.
John Havlicek = Edward IV
Underrated historically, Hondo and the fourth Ed belong among the greats. Both the Brits and Celts faced struggle and longing for a bygone era in the early ’70s (15th and 20th centuries, respectively). Despite those setbacks, they restored “method and order” to their dynasties, before they collapsed in their retirement. There was also that one sweet dance when Sir Johnny Most could be heard screaming in the castle, “Edward IV stole the ball.”
Dave Cowens = Edgar II
The last vestige of a dynasty, he was put forward as king in a time of great uncertainty, but never crowned, because of a conqueror’s inevitable rise.
Larry Bird = Queen Victoria
They were unprepossessing, which is a nice word for not-so-nice looking. But they ruled at early ages, told it to you straight, expanded their empires and modernized their realms. Their names came to define their eras — Victorian and Bird — and they each ruled one quarter of the Earth while forging bonds with their rivals. Vickie also once walked into an equestrian dressage competition and asked, “Who’s playing for second place?”
Reggie Lewis = Edward VII
They were the heir apparents for years, popular whilst waiting in the wings for long-running monarchies reign to end, and died in the midst of organizational crises, leaving conflict in their wake. Well, that’s depressing.
Dee Brown = Henry VI
They ascended too young and weren’t prepared to rule. Others, like Dino Radja and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, ruled for them. Their reigns were marked by incompetence and great loss until their depositions. Hank VI also wore Reebok Pumps and once dunked blindfolded by his own arm.
Antoine Walker = Edward VIII
They just loved the playboy lifestyle too much to be great. The eighth Ed gave up his throne less than a year into his reign to marry a twice-divorced American socialite, and ‘Toine only had eyes for 4-pointers. They blew through their riches at an alarming rate, and they were just fine handing the monarchy over to bros who were better suited to rule their kindoms.
Paul Pierce = George VI
These reluctant kings were never supposed to rule, but after growing into their constitutional roles, they both restored confidence in the monarchy. They both witnessed the breakup of their empires before enjoying battle victories that changed their legacies forever. Plus, the wheelchair game was Pierce’s King’s Speech — an Academy Award-worthy act of heroism.
Rajon Rondo = Lady Jane Grey
“The traitor-heroine of the Reformation.” That sums it up. They had reputations as learned youngsters, but their reigns were heavily disputed, and they were both deposed shortly after ascending in favor of a more popular monarch. They were convicted of high treason and sentenced to death — or, in Rondo’s case, the Sacramento Kings. Even in the aftermath of attempts to overthrow the realm, they are considered by some martyrs.
Isaiah Thomas = Henry V
Great warrior-kings, they united their people, achieving stunning success upon inspiring through courage and brotherhood. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” Shakespeare once wrote of the 2016-17 Celtics. Unfortunately, they both contracted health problems, resulting in short-lived reigns punctuated by sudden and unexpected departures.
Kyrie Irving = Elizabeth II
They’re extremely public figures, and yet we know little about what they actually believe. They maintained popularity during a difficult transition, and their reigns coincide with a time of tremendous social change. I’m also pretty sure QE2 is a flat-Earther who wasn’t a big King James fan.
SUCCESSION TO THE CELTICS THRONE: HOUSE AINGE
By my count, Horford and Hayward, neither of whom would be in the Celtics realm were it not for Thomas, are next in line for the throne.
With apologies to Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Shane Larkin, Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Jabari Bird, distant cousins of bygone Celtics or foreign-born alliances, there are seven young Celtics in the line of succession as descendants of the Paul Pierce trade to Brooklyn (Ainge’s Seven Year War).
Paul Pierce (1999-2013)
|— Isaiah Thomas (2015-17)
| |— Kyrie Irving
| |— Al Horford (1)
| |— Gordon Hayward (2)
|— Jaylen Brown (3)
|— Jayson Tatum (4)
|— 2018 Lakers first-round pick (5)
|— Semi Ojeleye (6)
|— Guerschon Yabusele (7)
|— Abdel Nader (8)
|— Kadeem Allen (9)
CELTICS PRIME MINISTERS
Red Auerbach has to be Winston Churchill. They’re smoking cigars and trading war stories somewhere right now. Rick Pitino is Tony Blair, and weapons of mass destruction are not walking through that door. And Danny Ainge is the Iron Lady, unwavering as Margaret Thatcher herself. That was easy. Cheers, you corkers. Now bugger off to watch the game.