Auerbach’s 12 Favorite Playoff Players

By Henry L. Liao

Red Auerbach
Red Auerbach
Legendary great Arnold (Red) Auerbach, who piloted the Boston Celtics to nine NBA championships in 10 trips to the NBA Finals from 1957-66 (the exception coming in 1958 when, behind Hall of Fame frontliner Bob Pettit, the St. Louis (now Atlanta) Hawks annexed the 1958 diadem, once named the 12 players he had most wanted for his team in the playoffs in an interview with prominent Sports Illustrated reporter Jack McCallum.

That was in 1992 when Auerbach was still alive – he died on October 28, 2006, at age 89.

McCallum only sought for 10 players but Auerbach opted for a dozen, reasoning that “look, I had 12 players when I coached. The hell with 10.”

Auerbach chose his dozen without consideration to playing era and the humongous NBA contracts that have mushroomed in the past two decades so much so we will be seeing the first player ever to bankroll $80 million in a single season in the next few years.

Here are the 12 players that Auerbach selected for his playoff team and his reasons why.

12-Karl (The Mailman) Malone: “The thing that sets him apart from Bob Pettit and Elgin Baylor is that he runs the floor like a big guard.”

11-Charles Barkley: “He doesd what he has to, whether it’s outside, inside, rebounding or scoring. A winner (although he never earned a ring during his distinguished career).”

10-Julius Erving: “With one move he could raise a team and destroy an opponent.”

Bill Russell with Red Auerbach
Bill Russell with Red Auerbach
9-Oscar (The Big O) Robertson: “Like (Larry) Bird, he did so much. He could rebgounds, shoot, play defense, and he was strong-willed.”

8-Jerry West: “A very underrated defensive player. And a pressure performer.”

7-Bob Cousy: “When you’re in the running game, you have to have Cousy. Next to Magic (Johnson), the best ever on the break.”

6-Michael Jordan: “He’s just everywhere. He could do everything.”

5-John (Hondo) Havlicek: “The ultimate professional. Superb condition, superb attitude, superb defender, superb versatility.”

4-Earvin (Magic) Johnson: “The most potent point guard ever.”

3-Larry Bird: “Plays all parts of the game better than anyone who ever lived.”

2-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “Perhaps the single most potent offensive weapon (skyhook) ever.A durable player, a clutch player.”

1-Bill Russell: “The most influential player of his era, maybe of all time. By innovating the art of shot-blocking, he totally dictated tempo.”

Red Auerbach
Red Auerbach

Where would Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Lukas Doncic, Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kawhi Leonard rank if Auerbach were still alive today?

Not many will probably make Auerbach’s list in this ESPN highlights-driven era.

Henry Liao
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