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Truly devoted Celtics fan will know that many of the great (and not so great) players of the classic Celtics championship teams have played roles in major motion pictures.
We are not talking ESPN documentaries or TV guest shots. No, many Boston Celtics stars transferred their talents to the big screen, sometimes fleetingly and often in major films.
How many do you remember? All the movies in which Celtics players appeared are available on DVD and should be required viewing for the die-hard Celtics fan.
Our list may not be complete, but it is comprehensive. We chose 10 of the most well-known Celtics and ranked their contributions to great movie entertainment. A surprising number of films are, of course, based on basketball. Not all.
10. Kevin McHale
Unlike his great championship teammates of the 1980s, McHale’s screen appearances were all small: He did a couple of guest appearances on the hit TV show called Cheers, set in a Boston bar during the late 1980s. His Herman Munster style did not make it to the big screen. Lately, he appears as an NBA analyst as comic relief.
9. Danny Ainge
In his most recent career move, Ainge has been a Celtic wheeler and dealer, leading the team to a new dynasty from a front office seat. Few may remember his tiny walk-on in Space Jam in 1989 with Bugs Bunny.
It was in 2002 that he appeared last on the screen as a Mormon teacher in Singles Ward. It catapulted him back to the Celtics. No additional screen time is likely.
8. Larry Bird
The great Celtic leader of the 1980s teams has not always shown the best side on screen. His word in Space Jam made him a poor second to Michael Jordan in both golf and basketball.
He also lent his presence to Celtic Pride in 1993 about vile fans that kidnap an opposing player to help the Celtics keep their winning streak. The film was notable for showing the old Boston Garden being dismantled.
7. Shaquille O’Neal
As the most impressive Kazaam of the Celtics, Shaq parlayed that role into one of his archetypal movie performances. He also took on the role of a giant college prospect in Blue Chips.
Nowadays, Shaq can be found conducting symphony orchestras, dressing up as Shaqita and acting like he found the Fountain of Youth in Boston.
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6. Bill Russell
The legendary player has become a Renaissance Man to winner of the national Medal of Freedom, from writing books to being involved with all aspects of the game, including the role as first African-American NBA coach.
His film work has been spotty, but in 1981 he left the role of subject interviewee to play a key role in Gary Coleman’s movie, On the Right Track.
5. Red Auerbach
The epitome of the Celtics for now and forever will be the cigar-smoking coach and general manager of so many championship years. When it came to his chance at the big screen, Red could only play himself as the general manager of the Celtics who is faced with a star player who quits to help change the world.
The film was called Amazing Grace and Chuck. A non-Celtic, now assistant coaching in the NBA, Alex English played the Celtic player who walks away from the team to promote nuclear disarmament.
4. Bob Cousy
Considered one of the greatest players of all-time, a great coach and great TV commentator, Cousy tried his hand at movies, as well.
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In 1994, he played coach Nick Nolte’s boss, Vic, the athletic director of the college program, in Blue Chips. Cousy stayed in character and even had billing above Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway in the credits.
3. Rick Fox
A Celtic rookie who started for the team, his handsome looks led him to the movies from the start. When he went from the Celtics to the arch-rival Lakers, his movie career could pick up steam and continues to this day.
From roles in Blue Chips to Eddie with Whoopi Goldberg, Rick transcended playing basketball roles to action/adventure characters in a variety of movies.
2. Ray Allen
As the only player to start at the top of movie fame, Ray played the lead role in He Got Game, working with both Spike Lee and Denzel Washington in 1998.
In a quintessential role as the young phenom named Jesus Shuttlesworth, he took second billing to Denzel and gave a first-rate performance in a complex and emotional role.
1. Chuck Connors
By far the most prolific Boston Celtic to make it to the big screen was their center from the 1946-47 season. From movies like Pat and Mike with Hepburn and Tracy, to the villain of The Big Country with Charlton Heston, Connors made his greatest fame as The Rifleman on television in the late 1950s and in Branded in the 1960s.
Whatever his screen successes, Connors never forgot his role as a Boston Celtic player, and the team emblem can be found on his tombstone at his request.