Bill Russell knew.
Of course, Russell is a Celtic at heart. The man led Boston to 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons. But he’s also the greatest winner in the history of professionals sports. Russell saw KG playing the “way he should play.” Leading Boston by example. Playing selflessly. Leaving every ounce of energy on the floor each and every night. Just like Russell did.
Russell knew the Boston Celtics were destined for greatness. That they would etch their names in the record books.
Paul Pierce was the Finals MVP.
But Kevin Garnett is the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics. And the Boston Celtics were all heart. They were all soul. The Celtics defense was as good as any in NBA history. Built upon each player moving in unison. All five guys tied to a string. Kevin Garnett was the quarterback. The Defensive Player of the Year. Barking out instructions to his teammates, telling them where the help was located, and spreading his defensive intensity and enthusiasm for the game.
It was contagious.
The Celtics won 66 games during the regular season. Yet they struggled in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Hawks and Cavaliers took Boston to 7 games. Boston beat the Pistons and Lakers in 6.
Match-ups played a part. But the Celtics improved with each round. Ray Allen fought through his shooting slump to shoot better than 50% from the 3-point line in the NBA Finals. Boston’s bench — a weakness through much of the playoffs — stepped up under the brightest of lights.
Doc Rivers encouraged his team to never give up, to never stop believing. And they didn’t. Boston came back from the largest deficit in NBA Finals history in Game 4.
The Celtics deserved the NBA championship. They wanted it more. Up by 30 points in Game 6, the Celtics were still beating the Lakers to loose balls. Boston had an NBA record 18 steals last night.
Kevin Garnett was interviewed shortly after the final buzzer sounded and he was beside himself. KG appeared intoxicated and the champagne hadn’t even been popped. Garnett was drunk with happiness. He was shaken to his core with unbridled joy, completely lost in the moment.
So much of a player’s legacy is determined by chance and circumstance. But every once in awhile, the basketball gods get it right. They got it right by allowing KG to play for the Boston Celtics this season. This is where he should have been his entire career — competing for an NBA championship.
Garnett deserved a shot to cement his legacy in the NBA Finals. And cement it he did. Kevin scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Game 6.
So what’s next?
Bill Russell said Garnett and the Celtics would win “two or three” NBA championships.
The ‘Big 3′ will be back. So will Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins. James Posey and PJ Brown will be retained. And Boston will be an attractive destination for free agents and veterans looking for a shot at an NBA championship.
The rest of the NBA has some catching up to do. The dynasty that seemed destined for the Lakers may end up in Boston.
(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)