Sports, and how we judge the outcome, depends a lot on our rooting interest and our predetermined perceptions. After five years together, the Boston Celtics Big 3 of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett appear to be done. Before I address the question of failure or success, I’ll make it clear that it was totally worth it. They won a title. You win a title, and it’s almost impossible to be critical. If you could do it all over again, you’d do it without thinking twice.
Was it a success? Based on the fact they won a title, and that alone, you could make a strong argument it was. Of course Boston also won 5 Atlantic division titles. They made it to the Eastern Conference Finals three times, winning twice. The Celtics won, and won a lot. The fan base was reignited. The team played hard, and was fun to watch with three future Hall of Famers leading the way. They sustained a level of winning and competitiveness only matched by a few other franchises over that five year period.
Was it a failure? Well, it started with a 66-win season and a NBA championship. The following four years could be considered disappointments based what was so quickly accomplished in the first. Nobody cares about division titles or regular season wins when hanging a banner is the only goal. They were probably never the best team in the NBA after that first title.
Some have the opinion that had KG not been hurt the next year they would have/could have repeated. Perhaps. If that is a fair argument, then the Lakers could argue if they had had a healthy Bynum and Ariza in 2008 then Boston may have never won the first title. We also don’t know even if they had KG if they would have beaten LeBron and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals or the Lakers, now healthy, in the NBA Finals in 2009. In 2010, Kendrick Perkins went down in game 6 of the Finals. Doc said they weren’t whole, and hadn’t been beaten when they were after losing game 7 to LA. We’ll never know. They had numerous injuries this season, but at no point were they ever considered a favorite, and certainly may have never made it this far if not for an injury to Derrick Rose knocking out the team with the best record in the East.
I don’t pose the question to knock Boston. I pose the question wondering if we will say the Miami Heat are a success after five years together (assuming they last that long) if they only win one title? I suspect most would not deem it such.
Boston’s Big 3 has gotten the red carpet treatment. Is it because they didn’t have a “decision” or because they didn’t have a party to announce the coming together? Is it simply because they won a title in the first year and that has hedged off any sort of criticism ever since? Is it because Doc Rivers is the most lovable coach in sports and nobody wants to say a bad thing about him or his team? Is it because of the injuries than happened gave them an excuse we accepted? Is it because of the cities they play in? Is it because none of them are LeBron James? It’s probably all of those things is what I think.
The Celtics putting together of a Big 3 was met with joyous applause and envy. The Heat’s putting together of a Big 3 was met with jealousy and hate. Both became instant title favorites for years to come with the moves but Miami has had more ridicule.
Time will certainly shade opinions one way or another. My opinion right now is Boston’s Big 3 was a success, but it failed to produce as much as it initially looked like it might. Miami’s Big 3 is failing until it wins a title, and then it is in a similar boat as Boston, in that it should win more, but if it doesn’t, it still can be viewed as a success because of a title, a lot of wins, and a lot of interest.
All of it is just a reminder how hard it is to win a title, and how singularly obsessed we can be with that as the only goal that counts.