After the '1990s came to a close, the New York Knicks' reign as one of the Eastern Conference's best teams was over. The following decade, the Boston Celtics emerged as the class of the Eastern Conference, ruling the National Basketball Association in the latter part of the decade.
However, the rivalry between the two teams dates back to the '1950s and has mostly remained a one-sided affair. It takes nothing more but a quick glance at the Celtics' history as the winningest franchise in NBA history with 16 championships to see that. From Bill Russell to Paul Pierce, the Garden in Boston can proudly boast a lot more banners in the rafters than the Garden in New York City.
Playing in the largest media market, the Knicks are constantly under a microscope and haven't always delivered. Outside of two championships in 1970 and 1973, being a perennial contender has always been more problematic than persistent.
Currently, the Knicks are struggling to play to their reputation and their market. They, led by first-year Latvian import Kristaps Porzingis currently sit in third place – ironically, behind the No. 2 Celtics (34-25) – in the Atlantic Division with a record of 25-35.
However, if the time-space continuum could be controlled, what would a starting lineup comprised of the best Knicks and Celtics players of all-time look like? At this time, both teams have some talented players on their roster, players who could be on their way to distinguished careers. But, only one active player on either team makes the all-time starting lineup.
Picking from an abundance of legends, icons, and Hall of Fames is never easy. Especially when using the historical lore or two different teams to do it. But, this group of individuals from the Knicks and Celtics past would likely give any starting lineup a tough matchup.
1. Bob Cousy (Point Guard)
Considered by many as the greatest point guard in Celtics history, the “Houdini of the Hardwood” still holds the honor of being the team's all-time assists leader with 6,945. The more impressive part about that statistic is that Bob Cousy hasn't played in the NBA since 1963.
Starting his career with Boston in 1950, Cousy eventually formed a dynamic one-two punch with the legendary Bill Russell – who we'll be talking about soon. Cousy's high-tempo style centered around passing was ahead of its time. It helped the Celtics to six NBA championships during his 13 seasons in Beantown. Cousy averaged 18.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists a game while making 13 All-Star teams and winning one MVP award.
2. Carmelo Anthony (Shooting Guard)
Sure, Carmelo Anthony hasn't led the Knicks to an NBA championship since joining the team in 2011, but he's still one of the Knicks' greatest ever scorers. In parts of six seasons in New York, the former Syracuse standout has averaged 25.5 points, 7.1 boards, and 3.2 assists while making four all-star teams.
While a championship wasn't in the cards, Anthony led the Knicks to consecutive playoff appearances during both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. He also helped the Knicks win their first playoff series since 2000 when the team defeated the Celtics in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Anthony could go down as the latest superstar that failed to bring a Larry O'Brein Trophy to Madison Square Garden, but sheer talent alone makes him worthy enough to be in any starting five.
3. Larry Bird (Small Forward)
Simply put, Larry Bird in his prime was a legendary sports figure whose work ethic was second-to-none. Whether it was playing with a damaged back, shooting thousands of practice free throws, or leading the Celtics to three NBA titles, Bird's popularity soared to heights that only a select few have experienced.
The 6-foot-9 sharpshooter averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in his career. At the time, the Lakers' Magic Johnson was Bird's biggest on-court rival, luring a new fanbase to the NBA. But, numbers only tell part of the story as Bird's intangibles and heart made up for any perceived lack of athleticism. Therefore, it'd be criminal to not include Bird in any list involving the Celtics' name.
4. Bill Russell (Power Forward)
What's there to say about the legendary Bill Russell that hasn't already been turned into a trophy? Joining the Celtics in 1956, Russell's style of play -- much like his teammate Bob Cousy -- was ahead of its time. At 6-foot-9, Russell wouldn't be considered a big man today, but he sure played like one.
Swatting the oppositions' shots, grabbing rebounds, and being a leader translated into five MVP awards, 12 all-star selections, five rebounding titles and an NBA record 11 championships. The most staggering part is that Russell only played for 13 seasons, meaning he led the Celtics to championship glory for 84 percent of his career. There's a reason the NBA Finals MVP award is named after him.
5. Patrick Ewing (Center)
A native of Jamaica, Patrick Ewing was beloved by Knicks fans for his tenacious style of play and dedication to New York City.The only issue is that much like Carmelo Anthony, Ewing's considerably longer 15-year stint with the Knicks never resulted with a championship. That still doesn't take away from the fact that Ewing is the team's all-time leader in almost every major offensive category, according to Basketball-Reference.
Those categories include games played (1,039), minutes played (37,586), field goals made (9,260), free throws made (5,126), rebounds (10,759), blocks (2,758), steals (1,061), points (23,665), and several others. Although Ewing didn't finish his career with the Knicks, spending the final two years with the Seatle Supersonics and Orlando Magic, Ewing's impact on some of best Knicks team ever -- despite not winning a title -- is still talked about today.