Of course, Bill Walton (Sixth Man of the Year), Scott Wedman, and Jerry Sichting helped, forming a solid bench and all, leading the Celtics to a .817 year (67 out of 82 games won -- only fifteen lost!) and an easily-won championship banner. It's the last banner that was raised in the old Garden, and the most recent banner in a new venue which wasn't even a gleam in a city planner's eye then.
I'm only mentioning this not to brag about the past or to bemoan the team's inability to enjoy even a .500 season anymore (10 ignoble finishes in the past 19 years, and they're heading full-speed towards that eleventh.)
I'm writing this because Dennis Johnson has died at the age of 52. Coach of the Austin Toros (a team in the NBA's "Development League" -- their version of the minor leagues), DJ died on the court, collapsing after a practice.
It's a blow to those of us who followed, grew up with, loved and wore the Celtics green (was there any other shade of green?) in the 80s. The needless death of Len Bias and the tragic death of Reggie Lewis proved to us that the team itself wasn't infallible, but nevertheless, our 85-86 starting five were immortal.
Bird. McHale. The Chief. Ainge. DJ.
One by one, our heroes fall. Their numbers are retired, hoisted to the rafters in a misty-eyed ceremony, then left up to collect dust and occasionally get shaken out before the start of a new season. The heroes themselves may live on further, but we don't remember their importance, their impact, their lay-up of Bird's stolen pass to win Game 5 of the 1987 Conference finals -- we don't consciously remember any of that.
We only get reminded when we're told that they're gone. That they've fallen.
Rest in peace, #3. If I were the type to make comments about hobnobbing in heaven, I'd say I hope you're up there now with Red, sharing a cigar (it's ok; they're not bad for you up there) and laughing about the days long gone.
bonus question: without looking, can you name the one player out of that starting five whose number has not been retired?