The Celtics of the late 70’s and 80’s were focused mainly around Bird, McHale, and Parish. But people tend to forget the major contributions from Cedric Maxwell throughout all of the championship runs. Here is the career and life of Cedric Maxwell, from first option star to accepting role player.
Maxwell spent four years at the collegiate level at UNC Charlotte. He played his first two seasons in a limited role, yet still was able to give a taste of his scoring ability. Year three was when he broke out and took college ball by storm. Cedric averaged 20 points and 12.1 Rebounds on the season. He also took home the NIT Most Valuable Player Award, an award also won by Hall of Famer Walt Frazier.
Yet he somehow followed that season up by a better one, scoring two more PPG on his best efficiency yet. He won the Sun Belt Player of the Year, making him the first to get the award. He helped his team to the Tournament and carried them to the Final Four. For his heroics Maxwell was named to a NCAA Tournament All-Region Team, and the NCAA All-Tournament team. Cedric ranks sixth on the schools all-time scoring list, and had his number 33 retired. His play in the tournament caught the eyes of many NBA executives, especially Red Auerbach’s.
Before the Bird
Despite Cedric being taken with the 12th overall pick, his rookie season left a lot to be desired. It was not exactly a horrible season, nor was it his fault that he wasn’t played that much. He showed off his efficient scoring (54% shooting percentage), tremendous rebounding (5.3 per game), and impactful defense (.7 steals and .7 blocks). But Maxwell’s next season was truly spectacular, quite possible the best of his career. With the falloff of Cowens, the trade of Charlie Scott, and the retirement of Havlicek, Cedric lead the team in scoring. He averaged 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.9 blocks. His Value Over Replacement was fifth in the NBA, he ranked top ten in plus/minus, and had the best offensive rating in the league. Unfortunately for him, the Celtics would find a new superstar in that offseason’s draft.
Cedric’s Celtics Evolution
Max readjusted his style to fit that of a second option, and his play was crucial to winning 61 games that season. He averaged 17 points (with improved efficiency), 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, a steal, and almost one block. But after that solid season, once again the Celtics would acquire a star (this time Parish) which pushed Cedric down the pecking order. Yet he was not deterred, averaging 15 points and 6.5 rebounds while still holding his own on defense. In the playoffs he was even better as he was named finals MVP in Bird’s first championship win.
In Maxwell’s fifth season, the Celtics once again added a new star to compete for the ball in Kevin McHale. Yet he was once again able to average 15 points and over six rebounds, while also having his last truly great defensive season. This accumulated in another great playoff run, yet not a championship. As pressure from the constant battle to start over the youthful McHale built, Maxwell still pushed himself to play at his best.
His stats took a hit, but his impact was just as strong. This was especially true in the playoffs, where he won his second and last championship. The next year he once again averaged a relatively low 11 points and 4 rebounds. When Cedric got injured during the season, it was all the Celtics needed to start McHale. McHale was already a star, having made an All-Star team the year prior off the bench. When Cedric got back from his injury, the Celtics opted to ship him off to the Clippers with a first rounder for an old Bill Walton.
With the Clippers, Cedric Maxwell had a jump in production as his role increased to a level he lacked in Boston. He averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds in his stint with the Clippers, but the team was terrible. He was then traded to the Houston Rockets for a first and second round pick. At this point Cedric’s career was practically over, having little to no impact on the team. He was traded for the last time to the Washington Bullets, before retiring shortly after.
Cedric Maxwell had a great career in the league, and he has a pretty good life after retirement too. His number (31) was retired in 2003, becoming the 22nd Celtic to receive the honor. He is now a radio broadcaster for WBZ-FM in Boston, while also frequenting on WEEI. He is one of the best at his job, as his feelings and emotions tend to represent the majority of Celtics fans. Maxwell also has expressed interest in starting a coaching career. It could certainly be with the Celtics one day, as coaches use them as a stepping stone. Or he could also return to UNC Charlotte to help out his former college. Despite many not considering him a crucial piece of Celtics history, Cedric’s number hangs above to remind us of his impact.