Sometimes nothing can go your way, your stars can get injured, you can tank a full season, you can fall all the way to five spot in the draft, but with a little bit of old-fashioned Celtics luck, everything can change for the better.
After losing their chance to draft either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, the Celtics traded the fifth pick along with some other nobodies to the Seattle Supersonics in exchange for All Star three-point specialist Ray Allen.
Two days later the Celtics traded for ten-time All Star and 2004 MVP Kevin Garnett in the single largest trade for one player in NBA history. He was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Boston’s 2009 first-round draft pick. It didn’t matter, the big three was born.
All three players were in their 30s, Paul Pierce and Allen were coming off injury-plagued campaigns, and none had ever ventured as far as the finals. They would rely heavily on unproven players like Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins to hold down starting spots and hope that role players like James Posey and Eddie House could solidify a bench that wasn’t fully formed.
They won their first eight games and were 22-3 by Christmas. After losing three straight after the All Star break, Boston went on a ten-game winning streak and dropped only four more the rest of the season. The Celtics finished with a record of 66-16, which was just a little different to their previous seasons record of 24-58.
Coming off the best single-season turnaround in NBA history, Kevin Garnett was named NBA defensive player of the year, while Danny Ainge, who executed the most dramatic NBA turnaround ever, was named NBA executive of the year. The Celtics also sold out all 41 regular-season home games.
After a seven-game series with the Atlanta Hawks led by ex-Celtic Joe Johnson, a seven-game series against LeBron James and the Cavs, and a six-game series against an ageing Pistons team, the Boston Celtics were in the NBA Finals against the none other than the Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s important to look back at how far Paul Pierce and the Celtics had come from the start of the decade until now, from narrowly missing out on Celtics-Lakers Finals in 2002, to losing coaches and co-stars.
After taking a commanding 2-0 league in the series, which included a frightening fall by Pierce, only for him to return a few minutes later and win the game, the Celtics were heading to the familiar west where LA got its first win of the series, but the big three would answer back, winning two of the next three games and eventually the NBA title.
Garnett was brilliant, Pierce was reborn, and Allen’s shooting was as sharp as ever. The three blended together so seamlessly that their skill sets seemed made for one another.
Their championship season arrived at exactly the right time, just as the Spurs were beginning to decline and right before the Lakers built themselves back into a juggernaut. The LeBron era was still in its upward trajectory, but just ahead of its peak. The moment was right for a new contender, and the Celtics filled the void by bringing Boston their first championship title since 1986.
This wasn’t just another championship for Boston, it was a benchmark for future teams to follow. They restored a winning legacy that had been gone for far too long.
All of a sudden Pierce was an all-time great Celtic, the rare player who stuck with a fledgling franchise through thick and thin and eventually found light at the end of the tunnel. Garnett was immediately launched into the discussion about the NBA’s top 35 players ever. And Allen was the undisputed three-point king after his magnificent finals effort when he rained 22 threes on the purple and gold in just six games.
To say that this validated their careers might be an overstatement. Nevertheless, the ring is what separates the good players from the immortal ones.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen forever will be immortal.