Nearly five years ago, after a failed NBA lottery in which the Boston Celtics went from having a chance to get Kevin Durant or Greg Oden with the projected No.2 pick but fell instead to No.5 to pick Jeff Green, president Danny Ainge made a move that changed the course of the entire franchise.
Many thought that the move would be letting go of the franchise player, Paul Pierce. Instead, Ainge gave Pierce a veteran compliment in fellow All-Star Ray Allen in a trade with Seattle, who did pick Durant. Later in the offseason, Boston used a young potential All-Star in Al Jefferson and a lot of overrated young talents like Gerald Green to get a defensive stud, and arguably the most talented post player in the NBA in Kevin Garnett.
After Garnett won Defensive Player of the Year, the Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers in six games to win the 17th championship in franchise history. With Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins continuing to develop in the second year of the Big 3 era, it seemed like there was no chance for them not to win at least another title.
However, the heart and soul of the team, Garnett, began to have constant injury issues that forced Pierce to play power forward at times against the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic in seven game series. By the third year, there were rumors that Allen and Garnett could be on their way out because of second-half season struggles. But the Celtics ended up playing the Lakers again.
In an eerily similar scenario to the past series against the Miami Heat, Boston was up 3-2 with two games in LA to beat the Lakers for the second time in three years. But Perkins hurt his knee, and his career with the Celtics ended soon after.
Despite injuries to Jermaine O'Neal, Jeff Green, Allen, Rondo and Avery Bradley throughout the season, Boston competed again this season, and went to their third Eastern Conference Finals.
A historic five-year run for many teams was just another chapter of success for Boston, but not enough to join the Larry Bird and Bill Russell-led squads that are forever in NBA lore. But there influence was wide-ranging, as Miami became a new Big 3 in LeBron James' attempt to get past the only hurdle for him to the NBA Finals. Durant helped Oklahoma City become another Big 3 with Russell Westbrook and James Harden, and now both teams are meeting in the NBA Finals.
With a great modern legacy, it is time to see whether the last chapter of Boston's Big 3 (or Big 4) era has been written.