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Reflections on an Era: Boston’s Big 3 to Core 4

Posted By Warren Shaw On Jun 12 2012 @ 9:45 pm In Boston Celtics | No Comments

The Boston Celtics are not the most loved franchise in the NBA but they are one of the most, if not THE MOST, respected.

The Celtics over the last 5 seasons have been magical laced with triumph and devastation mixed in. This newer (now older) version of Boston, consisting of the “Big 3″ (or Core 4), is full of polarizing figures but are balanced by the brilliance of their Head Coach Doc Rivers.

Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce all have characteristics that I can understand how people have a bad taste in their mouth about.

Ray Allen and Rivers however, are the yin to the before mentioned yangs and are two of the most likeable people in sports, not just basketball.

Together they have given the basketball world a lesson in professionalism, intensity, teamwork, the will of a champion, spirit and heart over the last 5 seasons.

Together they made basketball a better and more interesting place to watch, cheer, or boo of if you were so inclined.

Many say the measure of a person is not what they do in spotlight, but what they do when the spotlight is off and when they are alone.

The Big 3′s tireless work ethic off the court, when nobody but themselves were around, transcended into inspirational play on the court that drew fans in. There was just something special about their union and commitment to excellence.

A chocked up Doc Rivers reflected briefly after their Game 7 loss at the hands of the Miami Heat:

“Kevin, Paul and Ray. I’m never going to look at them individually. They all gave up seven plus shots each. They gave up minutes. I asked them to play defense and move the ball and they all did it, and they’re willing to do it for the better of the team. So I think that’s what we should focus on, how much they gave up to try and win. That’s what I’ll remember most about them.”

When you watched the “Big 3″ do business, even if you didn’t like them, you respected them. You knew that they played basketball like a family full of the occasional discord that families often go through.

But if you rooted for them…you felt like a part of that family–Unbuntu and all. You felt that you had the right to put your two cents worth in and if they could really hear you, that your thoughts would at least be considered.


KG's mentoring helped Rondo become the player he is today

This team came together on July 31, 2007 after Kevin Garnett was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 7-1 deal (the largest deal for one player in NBA history).

Teams often hope and angle that a trade will be to their benefit but the deal for Garnett while costly at the time, was one of the best deals in Celtics history. He changed the culture of the Celtics by his unselfishness, demanding worth ethic, and commitment to defense.

Many forget that when he and Ray came in they immediately deferred to Pierce. Saying that the Celtics were Paul’s team and they just wanted to fit it. That kind of unselfishness with the resumes that both Garnett and Allen had is rarely seen in today’s athlete. It also undoubtedly had an everlasting  and profound effect on Rondo who has evolved into a capable leader as result of the Big 3′s mentorship.

This group of Celtics got to the NBA Finals in 2008 and won their only championship in their first year together.

Each season after that was marred by tragic injuries or self inflicted wounds as was the case in 2011 with the ill-fated Kendrick Perkins trade.

Keep in mind this Boston team had 4 rotation players that had season ending surgery in this year alone.  (Jeff Green, Jermaine O’neal, Chris Wilcox, and Avery Bradley)

More from Rivers:

“I wish we could have had healthy runs. This team won a title. Got to another one, a Game 7, where they had a shot to win. Got to the Eastern Conference finals and one game away on the road. Banged up. So, I don’t know because of really Kevin’s injury (knee in 2009) I don’t know if we could have gotten more out of this group. I would have loved to have seen this team in this whole stretch where Kevin was injury free.”

Despite only winning the one title they are the reason teams are trying to stack up in today’s NBA. The Miami Heat’s trio have admitted that they couldn’t beat Boston individually so they decided to use the same model of coming together in hopes of attaining their goals. (The verdict is still out on the Heat).

In 2008  Garnett doused in sweat and overcome with raw emotion after winning the championship was asked his thoughts on the victory. Garnett paused..then belted out his famous “Anything is possible!” [2] quotable.

I still get a chill when watching that clip and the ironic thing about this version of the Boston Celtics is how KG’s words would come to define them.

Anything is possible…even their return next season. Even if that doesn’t happen, I will remember them like Doc says he will.


Memories of this team, together, will always be inspiring.


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[1] Image: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/psb/uploads/2012/06/kg-rondo.jpg

[2] “Anything is possible!”: http://youtu.be/zyjOy7fRzs0

[3] Image: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/psb/uploads/2012/06/celtics-core-4.jpg

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