You’ll never find a more pessimistic person than 2010 me. I’ve been labeled a “doomer” more than once in the recent weeks. But I’ll tell you now, I was a grade A quitter entering my teenage years.
When the Red Sox fell down by one run at any point of the game I’d turn the TV off and assume they lost. Whenever I watched the Celtics, I knew the Big Three was on borrowed time. And by “knew” I mean, believed. I thought 2010 was their final stand. Little did I know they’d stick around and nearly crash the finals in 2012 against even higher odds.
I never knew how injured Garnett was until later one. I wasn’t connected to the endless sports news cycle like I am today. To the average twelve-year old, Garnett hurt his knee, missed the entire 2009 playoffs and came back. If he looked a step slower, I attributed it to age. Sure, that also plays a role. But suffering physical setback like he did drastically reduced his statistical output. For nearly 19 points a game to a hair above 14 per night. 2010 was the beginning of Garnett entering a phase of his career where he couldn’t rely on his athleticism and needed to shift gears to a savvier kind of player.
In 2008, the Celtics formed their super team at the right time. LeBron was a mere Youngling. Dwight Howard was just a really good center in Orlando. The Pistons struggled to fill the void Ben Wallace left for a second straight season. Even though the Lakers had Pau Gasol, he wasn’t ready for the intensity a deep playoff run would bring.
In 2010, the landscape of the league changed on the now graying Celtics. Rajon Rondo elbowed his way into the groups core after a breakout series vs Chicago in the 2009 playoffs and capitalizing on that to make the Big Three into the Big Four. For Rondo, his ascension came in the waning days in the era when it didn’t matter your point guard couldn’t shoot. Rondo blossomed into poor man’s Derrick Rose. Playing with equal reckless abandon.
2010 is the Celtics masterpiece. LeBron is entering his apex. Howard is off a shocking finals run the previous season – plus he’s beaten this team in the past. Down 2-1 to the vaunted Cavaliers, having been routed by them in game 3 the Celtics responded and survived an abysmal Paul Pierce game thanks to Rondo exploding for 29 and added 18 boards and 13 assists. Playing like a little kid on a sugar high, Rondo’s powers were at their peak in 2010 as the Celtics core could still bring their A-games more than half the time.
Pushed to the brink, the Celtics ran the Cavaliers off the floor and LeBron out of Cleveland. The next series, they dominated Orlando on their home floor en route to a six-game series win for a date with the Lakers. They denied Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard of what many believed to be rightfully there’s. Now it was time to do the same to Kobe Bryant.
But, of course they didn’t. The series was back and forth and the Celtics didn’t have rebounding big man Kendrick Perkins for game seven and rode Rasheed Wallace into the ground. The Celtics lost by four. Kobe got his revenge.
But what-if the final sequence of game seven went like this?
Pau Gasol tips in a contested lay-up with Garnett and Wallace draping him. Lakers lead by six. C’s come down on the other end, Lamar Odom ditches Wallace who floats out to the corner for the three-pointer to cut the deficit in half. Instead of Paul Pierce daring Metta World Peace to take the three (which was the correct call), he Ds up and pressures him. Disrupting the rhythm and it misses right, Garnett gets the board. C’s come down again and Allen gets free because either Kobe tripped or Wallace set a hard pick (biases aside, I cannot tell what the fuck happened) and knots the contest up at 76 a piece. Fifty-one seconds remain.
Electing to let the game play out, Phil Jackson in his last game coaching watches Kobe heave a hopeless three in attempt to answer the Celtics recent barrage of bombs. No dice. But as luck would have it, Pau gets the board and dishes it back to the Black Mamba and drives to the basket, draws contact on Sheed for the two shots at the charity stripe. Wallace bows out and Glen Davis relieves him.
Kobe goes two for two at the line. It’ll be the last of his twenty-four points of the night. Lakers up, 78-76 with 25 ticks left in regulation. Looking for thunder to strike twice, Allen’s three front rims, but Rondo charges head first into the purple and gold occupying the paint and dribbles to the corner for the turnaround three. Swish. Celtics lead! Timeout Lakers.
Jackson looks at his players. The last time he’ll be in the huddle drawing up plays. Looking directly at Kobe he gives him one order. “Give it to D-Fish.” He came up big numerous times in the past for L.A during the last ten-years. “They’re expecting you to shoot it. Fisher will be open.” Phil promises.
How could he say something like this during the biggest game of Kobe’s life? The play is drawn like a typical isolation. Kobe accepts the inbounds from the half court mark. Ray is giving Kobe the respect he deserves. One dribble. Two dribbles. Three dribbles. His eyes quickly dart to Fisher. Tony Allen who checked in for Davis is hugging Fisher, but he wrestlers himself free for a mere moment. The clock is dwindling and Kobe didn’t come this far to watch somebody else control his destiny. He steps back and launches a nineteen-footer. CLANK. Celtics win, 79-78.
Ah. That was fun.
So who’s the MVP? It’s between Rondo and Pierce to be honest. Rondo made the game-winning shot. But Pierce chipped a more than solid 18 points in an epic rock fight. Unlike Rondo, Pierce played defense. Good defense.
If Pierce received the honors, Celtics great Bill Russell would hand the trophy bearing his namesake to The Captain. 18 points, five rebounds, three assists. It’s his second Finals MVP. The last true forward to win two Finals MVPs before 2012: Larry Bird.
How would history treat the Big 3 Celtics vs the Big 3 Heat? Well, the Celtics as overachievers and the Heat as underachievers. Miami had three stars in their primes. Boston got theirs at the tail end when injures would become a recurring issue.
As for Kobe. Game seven was his worst characteristics coming to light. He was selfish and couldn’t learn to make that extra pass. When it really mattered, how Kobe was wired was his ultimate downfall. In the infancy of internet memes, there’s still bold texts captions on Kobe pictures where he’s bricking Ill-advised shots.
Perhaps the internet would give the Celtics the respect they deserve for battling and squeaking TWO championships out of an aging core with Wade, LeBron, Howard, and Kobe in their primes. Effectively, the Big Three era Celtics will have been responsible for sending three franchises to the dark ages in one playoffs’. Only Cleveland escaping thanks to a returning King. Everyone expects the 66-win Celtics to win it all. Nobody thought – or even wanted the 50-win squad to do it.
Everyone now think of Pierce as a hot take artist. From all sides of the political spectrum they come together to shit on him because they love taking the bait of a skilled troll. Maybe they’ll shut up since two rings are louder than one?
Nah! The median age of basketball Twitter is twenty-one. They only seen Pierce play five or six games, and they all involved their god leader LeBron.