And with the No. 6 overall pick, the Celtics select . . .
Oh, that was 1978, not that any diehard Celtics fan needs a reminder. The fair-haired Indiana State forward wouldn’t even play for the Celtics for a year, but as the ever-crafty Red Auerbach famously said, a year isn’t a very long time.
The rest is history, and at the very least, the Celtics have some rather good history — i.e. Bird — when picking sixth overall, where they’ll be selecting again on Thursday at the NBA Draft.
There isn’t a player of Bird’s caliber available this year. If any of them turn into a 12-time All-Star, three-time MVP, three-time NBA champion, and a Hall of Famer, it will be a most pleasant and welcome surprise.
But in what’s considered to be a top-heavy draft class, talent still can be found at No. 6. The Celtics figure to have a chance at Kentucky forward Julius Randle, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, Arizona forward Aaron Gordon, or a local product, Indiana forward Noah Vonleh from Haverhill.
Kansas center Joel Embiid might also be available after recent health issues appear to have hurt his draft stock. The Celtics also have the No. 17 pick, which they received in the blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets last summer.
Thursday will mark the sixth time the Celtics have had the sixth overall pick. They’ve taken Ron Mercer in 1997, Antoine Walker in 1996, Bird in 1978, John Richter in 1959, and Bob Stauffer in 1952.
Likewise, Thursday will mark the sixth time the Celtics have had the 17th overall pick. They’ve taken Tom Boswell in 1975, Glenn McDonald in 1974, Steve Downing in 1973, Ron Watts in 1965, and Al Butler in 1961.
Here are 10 notable players who have been selected in the first-round slots the Celtics hold this year.
No. 6 overall:
■ Damian Lillard (2012, Portland) — He has played two seasons, making an All-Star appearance this past season, in which he led his Trail Blazers to the second round of the playoffs. Was named the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2012-13.
■ Wally Szczerbiak (1999, Minnesota) — Played 12 seasons, making an All-Star appearance in 2002. Currently a TV analyst covering the Knicks for MSG Network.
■ Kenny Smith (1987, Sacramento) — Played 13 seasons, winning NBA championships in 1994 and 1995 with Houston. Currently a basketball analyst for TNT.
■ Lionel Hollins (1975, Portland) — Played 11 seasons, making an All-Star appearance in 1978 and winning a championship with Portland in 1977. Has coached for seven seasons, reaching the playoffs in three of them.
■ Lenny Wilkens (1960, St. Louis) — Played 15 seasons, making nine All-Star appearances. Led the league in assists per game (9.1) in 1969-70. Coached 32 seasons, winning 1,332 regular-season games, and led Seattle to the 1979 NBA championship. Inducted as a player into the Hall of Fame in 1989 and as a coach in 1998.
No. 17 overall:
■ Roy Hibbert (2008, Toronto) — Has played six seasons with the Pacers, twice being named an All-Star, including this past season. Has finished in the top 10 in blocked shots in five straight seasons.
■ Jermaine O’Neal (1996, Portland) — Has played 19 seasons, making six consecutive All-Star appearances from 2002-07. Led NBA in blocks (228) in 2000-01.
■ Shawn Kemp (1989, Seattle) — Played 14 seasons, making six consecutive All-Star appearances in the mid-1990s. Helped lead SuperSonics to franchise-record 64 wins and NBA Finals appearance in 1995-96 season.
■ Phil Jackson (1967, New York) — Played 12 seasons, winning a championship in 1973. Won 11 championships as NBA head coach, the most in league history. Inducted as coach into Hall of Fame in 2007. President of the Knicks.
■ Don Nelson (1962, Chicago) — Played 14 seasons, 11 with the Celtics, where he won five championships. Won a record 1,335 regular-season games in 31 seasons as a head coach, with three NBA Coach of the Year honors. Inducted into Hall of Fame as a coach in 2012.