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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #48: John Bagley

For those of us who watched Celtics games at the end of the Bird era, we were treated to John Bagley at the end of his career. That 1989-93 team was slow and old, and nothing embodies that slowness and oldness more than Bagley. Bags. The Bagman. Barely six feet tall and 250 pounds, Bagley was a fire hydrant of a point guard, shambling up the court alongside the fossilized remains of Bird, Parish, and McHale.

And yet a decade earlier, Bagley had been among the best players in college basketball. A Connecticut native, Bagley played at Boston College from 1979-82, and was the first Eagle to earn Big East Player of the Year honors following his stellar sophomore season. He averaged 20.1 points per game that year en route to leading BC to a conference title and the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tourney. The following year he topped 20 per game again and took the Eagles to the Elite Eight. Boston College eventually retired his number 54.

Bagley was highly-regarded enough that the Cavaliers drafted him twelfth overall in the 1982 NBA draft. He excelled in Cleveland, including 9.4 assists per game in the 1985-86 season. He go to the New Jersey Nets for a couple of years before landing in Boston. The Celtics gave up two second-round choices for Bagley, in an effort to replace point guard Brian Shaw who had gone to play in Italy.

Bagley’s high point with Boston was in 1992, when he helped a last-legs Larry Bird win 15 of the last 16 games in the regular season to catch the Knicks, win the division, and score the two-seed in the playoffs. The Celtics swept the Pacers in round one but then bowed out to the Cavaliers in an epic seven-game series that included Bird’s final NBA game.

He was short, he was slow, but he could pass. And there was a time that still mattered.

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