By A. SherrodBlakely
If you ask any coach, player or NBA executive, they'll tell you without hesitation that it's a copy-cat league.
Whatever one team does successfully, you're bound to see a knock-off version of it coming to an arena near you.
The Miami Heat went all Super friends on us when LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to take their talents to South Beach to join forces with Dwyane Wade. New York, not to be outdone, added Amar'e Stoudemire last summer and followed that up by adding Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups via trade -- a decent threesome, but definitely not apple-for-apple with the Heat's.
When you look at the struggles the Heat had in the Finals and the lack of cohesion we saw with the post-trade Knicks, it makes you appreciate what the Celtics did back in 2008 even more.
Adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a roster led by Paul Pierce immediately made the Celtics title contenders, but there were doubts -- plenty of them -- that it would work immediately.
Pierce has been at his best for years with the ball in his hands while everyone else cleared out.
He's a great scorer. Ask him, and he'll tell you as much.
Garnett and Allen had already established themselves as future Hall of Famers. And while it was clear both could still play at a high level, their best days in the NBA were behind them.
Throw in a couple of unproven youngsters (Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins), and a bench that had yet to establish an identity, and the '08 Celtics were essentially an older, more seasoned version of the Heat this past season.
It is that experience, maybe more than anything else, that helped the Celtics bring home Banner 17 while Miami will spend this summer licking its wounds from getting beat in the Finals by the Dallas Mavericks.
When you look at Boston's Big Three, all of them endured their share of bumps and bruises along the road to greatness.
Does anyone really feel that way about LeBron? or D-Wade? or Chris Bosh?
Let's be real.
All three were top-five picks in 2003, and immediately became the face of their respective franchises.
Of the trio, James has clearly lived the most charmed life of the bunch. He'll tell you as much.
When asked how he felt about so many NBA fans wanting to see him fail with the Heat, James responded, "At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point."
For James, disappointment remains a central part of his real world when it comes to basketball.
He plotted out as best he could what it would take to win an NBA title, teaming up with a pair of superstars while being surrounded by a slew of underpaid role players who were all too eager to leave a few bucks on the table for a shot at what many thought would be the first of many title runs.
But they all soon discovered: This winning a championship thing? It ain't easy.
Fortunately for Boston's Big Three, they didn't have to experience the heartbreak of coming up short in the playoffs to realize how difficult winning a title could be.
Because of the seamless nature the C's went about bringing home Banner 17, others have since tried to do the same.
Add three superstars. Surround them by solid role players. Stir. Mix.
Let it simmer for 82 regular-season games, only to start cookin' come playoff time. And just like that, you got a title. Right?
But as the Mavericks proved in dispatching the Heat in six games, it takes more than three great players to win an NBA championship.
When it comes to championships, talent helps.
Having a talented team? Even better.
But the Heat have the right idea with three superstars as its centerpiece. Surrounding them with the right kind of talent to compliment their games is just as important. But when you look at champions, the one thing that often separates them from others is experience.
And when it comes to experience, there's no knock-off equivalent.