Top Moments: Boston's new 'Big Three' deliver title No. 17 to Celtics
Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce led Boston past Los Angeles to win The Finals in 2008.
From NBA.com Staff
NBA.com takes a look back at the top moments that define the history of the NBA.
In response to rumors before the 2013 trade deadline, Kevin Garnett told the media: “I bleed green. I die green.”
It’s hard to believe that back in the summer of 2007, Garnett rejected the notion of joining the Celtics. He can thank Ray Allen for helping to change his mind.
Before the Celtics acquired Allen and Garnett in a pair of blockbuster trades, Boston had gone 21 years without an appearance in The Finals. But coming off a 24-58 injury-plagued season, Celtics president Danny Ainge changed the franchise’s fortunes almost overnight with two bold moves.
Having unsuccessfully tried to trade for Garnett before the 2007-08 season, Ainge instead turned his sights toward Seattle Supersonics All-Star guard Ray Allen. On June 28, 2007, the Celtics and Supersonics agreed to a Draft-night trade that would ship Allen to Boston in exchange for the No. 5 pick of 2007, Jeff Green, and other considerations.
Before all of this, Garnett, then with the Minnesota Timberwolves, had effectively blocked any potential trade to Boston by threatening to opt out of his contract following the season if the Celtics attempted to acquire him. Once Allen was in the mix, however, Garnett eased his stance.
This led to the single-largest trade for one player in NBA history. The seven-for-one deal that finally landed Garnett in Boston included the Celtics sending the Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, two first-round picks and cash considerations to the Timberwolves for Garnett. It was a massive coup for a 31-year-old forward who’s best years seemed behind him.
Garnett and Allen joined with Celtics All-Star forward Paul Pierce to form the Boston’s new “Big Three” — after Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish spearheaded the Celtics’ title runs in the 1980s. Together, that new “Big Three” led the franchise to the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history.
With a 66-win campaign in 2007-08, Boston’s 42-game turnaround was simply staggering. The Celtics sold out every home game and the basketball atmosphere throughout the city was as palpable as it had been since the years of Bird, McHale and Parish.
Boston would finish the season with the NBA’s best record, the “Big Three” were all All-Stars, Garnett won the Defensive Player of the Year award, Ainge was named the Executive of the Year and the Celtics would go on win their first NBA championship since 1986.
With the help of rising second-year point guard Rajon Rondo, the “Big Three” would escape a seven-game first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks before facing off against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The series would go the distance, culminating in a 97-92 Celtics win as Pierce (41 points) and James (45 points) staged one of the league’s all-time great Game 7 duels.
After handling the Detroit Pistons in six games, Boston would advance to The Finals where the Celtics would, fittingly, face the Los Angeles Lakers for the 11th time in The Finals. It was the first time the pair had met since the epic postseason rivalries between Magic Johnson and Bird ended in 1987.
After five grueling games, the Celtics held a 3-2 lead on their return to Boston. Game 6 would mark the Celtics 26th postseason game of the season, breaking the record for the most games ever played in a single postseason by one team.
The two teams that had previously held the record of 25 — the 1994 New York Knicks and 2005 Pistons — had both gone on to lose their trips to the NBA Finals in seven games.
Boston had other plans. In stunning fashion, the Celtics would blow the Lakers out with a 131-92 victory — the 39-point margin of victory breaking the record for the largest in an NBA championship-clinching game.
Pierce was named NBA Finals MVP after averaging 21.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds in the series. With Boston claiming it’s NBA-leading 17th championship, it only seemed right that the original member of this new “Big Three” led the charge.
“It means so much more because these are the guys, the Havliceks, the Bill Russells, the Cousys,” Pierce said. “These guys started what’s going on with those banners. They don’t hang up any other banners but championship ones.
“And now I’m a part of it.”