Boston's Toughest Celtic: Red Auerbach

Boston's Toughest Celtic: Red Auerbach
August 13, 2014, 5:15 pm
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All week, CSNNE is taking a look at Boston's Toughest at 6 p.m. Every day our Insiders will profile the player they feel is the toughest they've seen on the team they cover. Today's team: The Celtics.

BOSTON -- When you start to look at the storied history of the Boston Celtics, there's no shortage of talented tough guys.

Go back to the 1950s and you have to give it up for Bob Brannum, one of the NBA's first "enforcers" who wouldn't hesitate to lend a hand -- or a pair of fists -- if it meant protecting one of his Celtics teammates.

Robert Parish landing a 1-2-3 combo that sent Bill Laimbeer flailing to the floor during Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals was another "tough guy" moment for Celtics fans.

But toughness is about more than beating the snot out of a opponent.

Handling pain also speaks to a player's toughness. Few moments resonate like Rajon Rondo suffering a gruesome dislocated elbow against the Miami Heat a few years ago, and yet somehow managing to return to the floor minutes later.

But when it comes to the Celtics and all the true tough guys that have performed on the parquet, the man that stands head and shoulders above the rest is Red Auerbach.

Tough guys in Boston helped elevate a franchise.

Auerbach's toughness elevated the entire league.

At a time when teams obsessed over acquiring big-time scoring superstars, Auerbach envisioned a team with balanced scorers but also a defensive anchor whose presence could elevate the defensive play of those around him. And if it meant trading away a talented, popular player like six-time All-Star Ed Macauley, Auerbach was willing to make the deal regardless of the potential backlash.

But Auerbach's toughness extended beyond making tough personnel decisions. He tackled social issues head-on in a fashion that no one during that time in the NBA, had the guts to do.

It was the Boston Celtics, under Red Auerbach, who drafted the first black player, Chuck Cooper, into the league in 1950.

And it was Auerbach's Celtics who had the first all-black starting five in the NBA, in 1964.

So even with a franchise that has lots of tough guy candidates like Larry Bird, Dave Cowens or Bill Russell, there's really just one choice when it comes to the Boston Celtics.

And that's Red Auerbach, whose toughness as a leader, a coach, a front-office executive and maybe most significant as a leader in social change, became the blueprint for a future generations of tough guys who don the White and Green.