9. Walter A. Brown (Celtics)
The Celtics are the most storied team in basketball history. They have won 17 championships and have retired 21 numbers. The team symbolically retired No. 2 in honor of Red Auerbach in 1985 shortly after he stepped down as general manager. Why not No. 1? Because that belonged to the man who founded the Celtics, Walter A. Brown.
Brown’s first love was hockey and one of the reasons he founded the Celtics was so that the Boston Garden could be used during the hockey offseason. Brown helped create the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which started with 11 teams and would merge with the NBL to form the NBA in 1949.
It’s fitting that Brown and Auerbach have their retired numbers hanging next to each other in the rafters as they are forever linked together. The Celtics struggled in the BAA and were just 22-46 in their first year in the NBA. That’s when Red Auerbach took over. The owner and coach made history by drafting the first black player, Chuck Cooper. That year, the team improved dramatically to 39-30. Despite economic issues, the two stuck with the Celtics and the team won eight straight titles from 1958-1966 but Brown died shortly after the team’s sixth consecutive championship in 1965.