Cedric Maxwell

Celtics' Cedric Maxwell has hilarious story about winning 1981 NBA Finals MVP

Celtics' Cedric Maxwell has hilarious story about winning 1981 NBA Finals MVP

Before Cedric Maxwell endeared himself to a new generation of Celtics fans as a broadcaster, he was an integral part of hanging two championship banners in the Garden rafters during his eight-year stint as a player.

Not only did Maxwell lead the C's with 24 points in a Game 7 victory over the Lakers in 1984, he also won NBA Finals MVP in 1981 when the C's upended the Rockets in six games.

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On a recent taping for a Classic Celtics broadcast on NBC Sports Boston (click here for the full schedule of games), Maxwell talked to Brian Scalabrine about how exciting it was in the locker room celebration when he found out he was Finals MVP.

"We were all in there celebrating, talking back and forth, and Rick Barry was going to different people talking. And finally he got to me and said 'Cedric Maxwell, Sporting News MVP!' I was like 'Oh, wow' and then all my teammates came over and started throwing champagne and all that, and it's great."

Maxwell averaged almost 18 points and 10 rebounds per game in the series, but he won Finals MVP thanks to his amazing performance in Games 3 through 6, when he put up 22.5 points (on 64.8 percent shooting) and 11.0 rebounds per game. But the award didn't exactly come with all the perks you might expect.

A trip to Disney? Nope. A car? Not that either. So what did you get, Max?

"You know what? I got jack. They gave you a watch," Maxwell explained.

Well, at least it was an amazing watch like a Rolex, right?

"Dude, it's not a Rolex! ... Dude, I've never worn this watch!" 

OK, well at least there had to be a formal presentation when the NBA presented it to Maxwell...

"I actually had to go to New York and this is what they came out with," a laughing Maxwell said as he displayed the timepiece to Scalabrine, which you can see in the video above.

I ended up showing this watch to Jayson Tatum, all those guys this year, showed them the whole box that I had. They all looked at me like, 'Dude, you got screwed!'

It turns out that the NBA started giving cars to Finals MVPs the next year, but Maxwell had a priceless reaction when laughing that prize off instead of being annoyed at the timing.

"The only thing I have to say about that — if in fact I had won a car in 1981, that car would have been in the junk yard. I still have this watch right now as a memento, so that's a great thing."

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This Date In Celtics History: Cedric Maxwell fights 76ers fan in stands

This Date In Celtics History: Cedric Maxwell fights 76ers fan in stands

The City of Brotherly Love had no such feelings toward Cedric Maxwell on May 1, 1981.

Exactly 39 years ago Friday, Maxwell's Boston Celtics entered The Spectrum for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers needing a win to force Game 7.

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The contest got chippy in a hurry, and tensions eventually boiled over into the stands, as Maxwell got into a scuffle with a 76ers fan under the basket after Darryl Dawkins pushed him in that direction.

 

Once order was restored, a thrilling finish unfolded: The Celtics stormed back from a 17-point deficit, while Maxwell hit two clutch free throws late to help Boston survive for a 100-98 win.

Maxwell later was fined for his altercation, but the C's went on to win Game 7 after trailing 3-1 in the series.

Here are a few other notable May 1 performances from the C's, who are 7-7 all-time in games played on this date:

May 1, 2013: Paul Pierce (16 points, four rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (16 points, 18 rebounds) lead the Celtics to a 92-86 first-round playoff win over the New York Knicks in what will be their last win together as Celtics teammates.

May 1, 2003: Exactly a decade earlier, Pierce puts the Celtics on his back with 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists to help Boston eliminate the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the first round.

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Watching "The Last Dance" makes you wonder how Larry Bird would fit in today's NBA

Watching "The Last Dance" makes you wonder how Larry Bird would fit in today's NBA

The Michael Jordan documentary, "The Last Dance," is great television and could not have come along at a better time.

You know I’m a die-hard Celtics fan, but it is impossible not be in awe of the 90’s Bulls. How could any hoop fan not get tingles down their spine when hearing The Alan Parsons Project “Sirius” as Jordan’s name boomed through the rafters.

To me, that always signaled something special was moments away. 

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Larry Bird had the best quote ever regarding Jordan. After Mike put up 63 points in a Bulls loss at the Garden in the '86 playoffs, Bird told the Boston Globe, “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

Larry didn’t hand out compliments lightly. Those words meant a lot.

As I was watching Jordan personally torch the Celts defense, I couldn’t help but notice how slow and plodding the Celtics appeared ... and that was the Celtics team that won 67 games. 

I asked myself the question, “How good would Larry Bird be playing today’s game?” Currently, the players are more athletic and more skilled, regardless of height. There were no seven-footers who could handle and shoot like Kevin Durant in the 80’s. At 6-9, Magic was an anomaly at point guard.

How could I ever doubt Larry Legend? What was wrong with me?

One great thing about my job — and there are many — is that I have the pleasure of knowing some people who have actually played professional sports, and one in particular who played with Larry.

I press Max on my cell. I still think it’s cool that I have the 1981 NBA Finals MVP (Cedric Maxwell) in my phone.

“Big Fella!” I cry into the phone as he picks up. 

“Big Fella!” He cries back. Yes, we have pet nicknames or maybe that’s just what I want to believe. He may call everybody, “Big fella.”

Anyway. 

Quick Max story. I was filling in for the highly talented Celtic play-by-play man Sean Grande one night when Jared Sullinger took an awful shot in the fourth quarter. It was sooooo baadddd my call went like this, “Ohhh, boy,” as in “Oh brother.” As a Celtic fan, I was so disheartened by the shot I never called the play! And THIS WAS ON THE RADIO!  Max laughed so hard he tinkled himself in his fine custom-made suit. 

No reason for that story. I just like to tell it. 

After exchanging the typical "Are you OK?" pleasantries of our time, I ask Max if Larry would be Larry in today’s game. Honestly, his answer surprised me. 

Now, it's well-known that Max and Kevin McHale carried Larry’s ass defensively. The two had a good laugh when Bird was named NBA second-team all-defense. I was expecting Max to point out what I saw, Larry’s lack of speed, ability to elevate, etc…

Nope.

“Larry would have fit in well today,” said his old teammate. “With his three-point shot and the pick and roll game, he would be better in today’s game.”

Whoaaaa, Big Fella. Better in today’s game than his glory days of the 80’s?

“No one would have touched him because of the tight whistles — and of course, he could shoot the three.”

The three pointer I understand, so I figured maybe Larry would just be a shooter. What do I know?

“Larry would thrive with the pick and roll. He could rebound and he was always a great passer.” Max went on to say Larry would be a better Luka Doncic, who was averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game before this season was suspended. 

Then I ask, “What about his defense, Max? You always had the tougher assignment.”

Then Max pointed out Larry could have benefited from the zone D of today just like he benefited from playing alongside himself and McHale. 

Shame on me for even thinking that Larry wouldn’t become a legend in today’s game, but he still looked slow ... but then again, who didn’t when playing Jordan?