April 26, 2012
Two years prior to the 1994-95 season, Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird announced his retirement due to ailing back problems. As one of the greatest players in NBA history focused on life after playing professional basketball, the Celtics organization hit a rough road in which two of their remaining best players – Robert Parish (nearly 40 years old) and Kevin McHale (35-years-old) – were seeing their better days behind them.
Despite a rocky start to their season, the Celtics finished with a 48-34 record, in 1992-93. Qualifying for the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Celtics faced the Charlotte Hornets in the first round and were eliminated in four games. In Game 1 of the series, Reggie Lewis collapsed on the court. He was later diagnosed with arrhythemia (an irregular heartbeat). His condition resulted in his death on July 27, 1993, during the off-season, while shooting baskets at Brandeis University in Boston.
The 1993-94 Celtics finished with a 32-50 record and did not make it to the playoffs. With the death of 27-year-old Lewis and the retirement of Kevin McHale, the Celtics had one of their worst seasons since 1978-79. However, rookie Dino Radja gave many Celtic supporters some hope as the 6-11 forward from Croatia was the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 15.1 ppg, and earned a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Radja became the sixth rookie in Celtics history to reach 1,000 points in a single season – joining Larry Bird, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Dave Cowens, and John Havlicek.
In the off-season leading to the 1994-95 season, Robert Parish left the team to sign with the Charlotte Hornets as a free agent, marking the end of an era. After losing “The Chief,” the Celtics named former Celtics player M.L. Carr as general manager and signed free agents Dominique Wilkins and Pervis Ellison.
The 1994-95 season was the final season the Celtics would play at the Boston Garden. The Celtics finished the regular season with a 35-47 record and managed to clinch the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Celtics went up against the Orlando Magic, losing the series in four games. Although the Celtics experienced a mediocre season, they received big contributions from forwards Dominique Wilkins (17.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Dino Radja (17.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg). Head coach Chris Ford was relieved of his coaching duties at season’s end, after five years with the organization.
1994-95 Roster: James Blackwell (#8), Dee Brown (#7), Tony Dawson (#45), Sherman Douglas (#25), Acie Earl (#55), Blue Edwards (#30), Pervis Ellison (#29), Rick Fox (#44), Tony Harris (#43), Jay Humphries (#5), Xavier McDaniel (#34), Greg Minor (#9), Eric Montross (#0), Dino Radja (#40), Derek Strong (#31), David Wesley (#4), Dominique Wilkins (#12)