Cedric Maxwell ‘Hated’ the Thought of Playing for the Boston Celtics: ‘God Is a Funny Guy’
The Boston Celtics selected Cedric Maxwell with the 12th overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft. A 6-foot-8 forward out of UNC Charlotte, Maxwell guided the 49ers to a berth in the Final Four of the 1977 NCAA men’s tournament.
After upsetting Michigan in the Elite Eight, Maxwell and the Niners dropped a heartbreaker to Marquette. Maxwell was named to the All-Tournament Team as his draft stock rose. The Celtics snagged him in the draft, and Maxwell wasn’t a happy camper.
Cedric Maxwell was a significant contributor to the success of the Boston Celtics
Cedric Maxwell proved to be well worthy of the 12th overall selection in 1978. After playing just 16.8 minutes per game as a rookie, he had quite an impact in his second NBA season. During the 1978-79 season, Maxwell more than doubled his minutes per game (37.1) and averaged 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds. He played in 80 games and led the league in field-goal percentage (58.4%).
The following year, the Celtics brought in a rookie by the name of Larry Bird. Fresh off a berth in the 1979 NCAA title game, Bird helped the Celtics to a 61-win season, up from 29 victories the previous season. Bird won Rookie of the Year.
Despite Bird’s presence, Maxwell’s numbers were still good. He averaged 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds and still led the NBA in shooting percentage (60.9%). From that point, his numbers saw a slow decline.
That’s because the Celtics made a deal with the Golden State Warriors right before the 1980 NBA Draft. Boston traded the top pick in the draft, along with the 13th selection, to Golden State. In return, the Celtics received veteran center Robert Parish and the third pick. With that No. 3 pick, the Celtics selected Kevin McHale.
With those players on hand, Maxwell saw the ball less often, but the Celtics turned into winners. The Celtics won the first of three championships in the 1980s when they defeated the Houston Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals. Maxwell was named MVP of the series.
He won another championship in 1984 when the Celtics outlasted the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
Maxwell wasn’t too happy about being drafted by the Celtics
During a recent interview with Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer, Maxwell admitted he wasn’t overly fond when the Celtics called his name at the 1977 NBA Draft.
“Hated it. Absolutely hated it,” he told Fowler this week. “I wanted to go to Atlanta and stay in the South. … Then we went through a lot of things in Boston my first couple of years until we got some kid from Indiana.”
Maxwell admitted he and Bird were completely different, but they bonded over basketball — winning basketball. Maxwell said he was “top dog” before Bird came to Boston, and it took a little time for him to give way to that young kid from Indiana.
“I remember just being this prejudiced Black guy who felt like this white guy couldn’t play,” Maxwell said. “And then he starts scoring on me in practice and I remember afterward, the first Black person I could get to, I said, ‘“’You know what? That frickin’ white guy can play.’ God is a funny guy, really. He didn’t just give me one of the best white players ever. Soon we got Kevin McHale. So he gives me two.
“It was kind of funny to develop a relationship with Larry. We were as different as day and night. Larry wanted to hunt, smoke cigarettes and drink beer. I didn’t drink beer. I didn’t smoke cigarettes. But we formed a great partnership on the court.”
Bird was a cigarette smoker?
“Yep,” Maxwell said. “My first year in the league, all that was a surprise to me. In my first game, a guy who I idolized was Jo Jo White. And my first game in the league I look across at halftime and Jo Jo is smoking a cigarette. And I’m like, at halftime in the locker room?
“I wanted to tell the coach. But then I looked up at the chalkboard and (Celtics coach) Tommy Heinsohn was smoking a cigarette, too.”