Friday, 29 March 2013

Watch the Original Celtics, the first “best team ever,” show off their basketball skills (Video)

The Miami Heat's just-completed 27-game winning streak inspired many discussions of their placement among the greatest teams ever, not just in comparison to the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers but other legends like the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and the iconic Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics of the late-'50s and '60s. As usual, these looks at the past avoided talking about the first "best team ever," the Original Celtics of the 1920s. A barnstorming group based out of New York City (with no relation to the Boston Celtics), this team is responsible for many of the sport's key innovations and building its popularity in the pre-NBA era.

Unfortunately, a recently surfaced clip of the Celtics practicing does little to communicate their contributions to the game. In what appears to be part of an advertisement for Converse, the 1932 version of the club shows off their slick passing, dominant (and decidedly earthbound) shot-blocking abilities, and the glory of the two-handed set shot. It is all extremely old-fashioned, to the point where the sport barely even resembles its current self. It's tempting to say that all these players referred to the dunk as "the dunk shot," but I'm pretty sure the play hadn't even been invented yet.

Nevertheless, the Celtics really are an essential part of basketball history, and their outdated style doesn't undo what they accomplished. When they were elected to the Hall of Fame as a group in 1959, it was a no-brainer. Really, we should just marvel at the fact that this team was once at the forefront of basketball innovation. The game has come a long way.

There's one more thing to note, though, and it perhaps speaks even more to the antediluvian character of basketball in this era. Although this video claims to show the 1932 Original Celtics, that team wasn't actually the original Original Celtics (themselves a new version of the New York Celtics), a team so dominant that the creators American Basketball League prohibited their employees from playing them so that the Celtics would be forced to enter the league. Once they did, they were so good that the league had to disperse its players to other teams to help competition. The club folded in 1931, along with the rest of the ABL, and the 1932 team was a second attempt to create a barnstorming group. That plan didn't last long, but at least they live on in this clip.

(Video via Our Man Devine and Deadspin)

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