The Boston Celtics already had a franchise player before Paul Pierce stepped on the parquet in the late 90’s. That player being Antoine Walker, who took over the franchise after being selected sixth overall in the 1996 NBA Draft out of Kentucky.
Coming out of Kentucky, Walker had just won the NCAA championship. The following year, he averaged 17.5 points per game on 42.5 percent shooting from the field in his first year in Boston, making NBA All-Rookie First Team for the 1996-97 season.
The following offseason, the Celtics would go on to draft and trade for players that Walker had success with at Kentucky, including coach Rick Pitino. In doing so, Boston drafted Ron Mercer and acquired Walter McCarty, who won a National Championship with Walker in 1996.
The three players were successful in their first year on the parquet together, despite finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 36-46 record.
- Walker: 22.4 pts, 10.2 reb, 3.3 ast
- Mercer: 15.3 pts 3.5 reb, 2.2 ast
- McCarty: 9.6 pts, 4.4 reb, 2.2 ast
Although their time together in Boston wasn’t for long, Walker, Mercer, and McCarty quickly became fan favorites with the Celtics faithful- including a legendary bellow from Tommy Heinsohn that is still remembered much today: “I LOVE WALTAH”!
This trio became quickly embraced by Boston and one that is still often talked about when reminiscing of previous teams.
And the rest is history. Pierce was nearly averaging 20 points per game in his second season in Boston. Together, the Boston Celtics had an All-Star caliber duo to build around.
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