Celtics superstar Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain of the 76ers square off at the Boston Garden in the winter of 1967.
Great flooring is everything in a home—ask the hoop stars who used to play in the Garden.
The visual symmetry and muted sheen of the floor told a lie, of course. Legend has it that Boston Garden’s old and gorgeous parquet floors, unique in pro basketball when they were installed in the early 1950s, had dead zones. Opposing teams accused Celtics players of forcing them into these zones where their dribbling would turn errant and cause turnovers. “You have to be a sure dribbler,” Chris Ford, former Celtics guard, once wryly said. “I never tried to do anything fancy.” The parquet floor was originally used out of necessity: When the Celtics made their Basketball Association of America debut in 1946, the country, still feeling the effects of World War II, had a lumber shortage. Walter Brown, the Celtics’ owner, reasoned the best way to attract quality players was having a top-notch floor. Brown commissioned a team to gather wood at Boston lumberyards to assemble the design for $11,000—all with surplus scraps of Tennessee red oak fastened by brass screws, wood planks and 988 bolts. A home-court advantage was born. “It was unique because it looked like no other floor,” Celtics great Bill Russell told The New York Times in 2000. “But what was most significant about the floor was that teams found it distracting. And that was all right. It was part of our legend for kicking everybody’s butts.”
Photography by: Photo courtesy of Robert Riger/Getty Images