Following the February 13th announcement that the Boston Celtics would be retiring Kevin Garnett’s #5 jersey at some point during the 2020-21 season, the online basketball community has argued about whether or not Ray Allen’s #20 deserves similar treatment.
Allen and Garnett joined the team during the same offseason in 2007, and both put up great statistics during their Boston tenures while contributing to the 2008 championship run and subsequent playoff runs that came up short (Allen averaged 16.7 points per game on 47.2% FG and 40.9% 3PT to Garnett’s 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds on 52.0% FG). While a legitimate case can be made that Allen’s #20 should hang in the rafters alongside other Celtics legends like his former teammates Garnett and Paul Pierce, another key piece of that Celtics core seems to be forgotten all too often – that being Rajon Rondo, the team’s dynamic floor general at the time.
Rondo, a second-year player during the 2008 championship run, played a huge role in that championship run, and always felt like the glue that truly held the team together. His passing ability fit so well next to the shooting prowess of Boston’s two elite wing players, and his ability to penetrate the lane and distract opposing big men created so many easy baskets for Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. He likely wasn’t the best player on the team – that honor goes to either Pierce, the team’s leading scorer and Finals MVP, or Garnett, the defensive anchor and consistent inside presence offensively. Despite this, however, he was so important to the defensive scheme and offensive system that Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau implemented.
While he wasn’t the best player on the 2008 team, he was likely the best player on the 2010 team that finished one game away from capturing another title. His 15.8 points, 9.3 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game truly showed off how versatile and well-rounded his game was. He assisted on 41.1 of the team’s field goals while he was on the floor while posting the second-lowest usage rate (22.0%) of any of the Celtics’ “Big Four”. His Box Plus/Minus of 3.9 also led the team.
Rondo’s game continued to fill impress following the 2010 playoffs, and although that Celtics core would never reach another Finals, the point guard continued to impress over the next few seasons and playoff runs. He averaged over 11 assists per game for 3 straight seasons (from 2010-11 to 2012-13), and his ability to stuff the stat sheet continuously led the team to improbable victories.
Additionally, Rondo simply spent more time in Boston than both Garnett and Allen. Rondo was the Celtics’ floor general for nearly a decade, finishing at 527 games played in green and remaining a fan favorite up until he was ultimately traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2014. As Garnett, Allen, and Pierce naturally declined with age, it was Rondo that elevated the team and kept the Celtics competitive with some of the Eastern Conference’s toughest competition.
The early 2010’s saw legitimate discussions taking place regarding who held the title of the NBA’s best point guard. While Rondo wasn’t quite as elite as Derrick Rose or Chris Paul at the time, his style of play fit so well next to Boston’s other great players. His all-around effectiveness made him a powerful presence at his position. With nine seasons in Boston, a championship ring, and a treasure trove of phenomenal performances and per-game averages under his belt, #9 deserves to hang in the rafters just as much as #5 or #20.
Photo: AP Photo/Charles Krupa