Celtics' Big Three leaves lasting impact on NBA

Celtics' Big Three leaves lasting impact on NBA
June 12, 2012, 4:52 pm
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BOSTON When Danny Ainge pulled off the blockbuster draft-night trade in 2007 for Ray Allen, and followed that up with one of the more lopsided NBA deals of the past decade in acquiring Kevin Garnett from Minnesota, Big Three 2.0 in Boston was alive and well.

Allen, Garnett and the captain Paul Pierce, were three stars that for years shined brightly in their own little basketball worlds, only to come together and establish themselves as a three-headed monster of the likes the league hadn't seen in years.

From the beginning, they would inevitably be compared to the original Big Three in Boston: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

It made sense for a lot of reasons, one of which was that both won an NBA title in their first season together.

Thats when the two go their separate ways.

While the Bird-led Celtics played about a decade together before injuries became a major issue, the most recent Big Three incarnation began to get hit by the injury bug in their second year together, prompting many -- including head coach Doc Rivers -- to play the ''what if' game.

Kevin Garnett, the defensive anchor and emotional catalyst from the moment he arrived, suffered a knee injury that would sideline him for 25 regular season games and the entire postseason of the 2008-09 season, which ended with the Cs getting bounced in the second round by Orlando.

They would get back to the NBA Finals in 2010, only to lose in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bostons season has ended at the hands of the latest Big Three power, Miami, each of the last two seasons.

"I would have loved to have seen this team in this whole stretch where Kevin was injury-free," Rivers said.

Still, there's no knocking the team's five-year run as being an impressive one.

Five Atlantic Division titles
A winning percentage of 69.3 (273-121)
Two trips to the NBA Finals (2008, 2010)
One NBA title (2008)

If you go by the sheer numbers, the Bird-led Big Three still had a better run when you consider the categories that matter most winning percentage (70.1), trips to the NBA Finals (five) and most important, NBA titles (three).

And while some might argue that the Big Three of the 1980s spent more years together and thus would have more success, consider this: If you went by the first five years of the Big Three era of the 1980s, it would be even more lopsided statistically.

In their first five seasons together, Bird, McHale and Parish won 74.6 percent of their regular season games, with three trips to the NBA Finals and a pair of NBA titles (1981, 1984).

As much as Allen takes pride in what he and his Big Three cohorts did in the past five seasons, he knows which trio had a better run.

"We have definitely fallen short," Allen said. "But we've gone out trying to play as hard as we can every night."

Whatever this current Big Three lacked in terms of wins and championships, they more than made up for it with the impact that they made on the entire NBA.

Since joining forces in 2007, it seemed to have sparked the notion that attempting to bring three superstars together instead of the customary one or two, could indeed bring you a championship.

It worked in Boston, why couldn't it work elsewhere?

That was clearly the mindset of the Miami Heat when they spent years planning for the 2010 free agency period where they were determined to build a roster around three of the game's elite players.

They're still in search of that elusive title with their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

But they're only in their second season together, and each season has included a trip to the NBA Finals.

Last season, they lost in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

Now they're facing an Oklahoma City team that, like the Heat, have three stars that are central to the team's success. The Thunder are led by NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, All-Star Russell Westbrook and super-sub James Harden.

So to put the Bird-McHale-Parish trio on a higher pedestal than this most recent triumvirate of Celtics superstars, is understandable.

They won more games and had more titles.

But that shouldn't dismiss what this current group has done.

They may not have been as successful as their Big Three predecessors, but their impact both on the Celtics franchise and the league as a whole, is undeniable.

Need proof? Look no further than Game 1 of tonight's NBA Finals.

It doesn't matter which team you pull for. The Boston Celtics' Big Three imprint is there.

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