What a difference a year makes.
In fact, for the Boston Celtics, what a difference a couple of months makes. Go back to May 3 before Game 7 of the Atlanta series, and everybody in Beantown was about one Garnett-missed jumper away from jumping ship and giving up on the C's for about another 22 years.
Back then, Doc Rivers was getting eaten alive for his poor lineup decisions and for his inability to coach the team to road wins. The Big Three was getting crucified for its inability to capture the big moment, or at the very least, keep up with a 37-win team.
Yeah, those were the days.
And now after a Jesus Shuttlesworth resurrection, a Paul Pierce Finals MVP trophy, and a KG performance in the clutch, the Celtics are revered just as the original Big Three of Bird-McHale-Parrish were and Doc Rivers is considered the inspirational catalyst of it all.
Ah, the power of a championship.
It's funny because almost everyone seemed to argue that the star players on this team needed a championship, as if it would somehow validate their already tremendous accomplishments.
Everyone spoke as if Paul Pierce was not an all-time Celtic great, Kevin Garnett was not a Hall-of-Fame power forward, and Ray Allen was not one of the best sharpshooters of all time.
The idea that somehow these three great players still needed something to justify their accomplishments is simply preposterous because frankly, there is just as much luck involved in winning a championship as there is skill, chemistry, and commitment.
Had the Celtics won the draft lottery, we'd probably be staring at a starting five of Rondo, Gerald Green, Paul Pierce, Big Al, and Perk.
Where would the number one draft pick be? Well, that person would have been Greg Oden and he would have been sitting on the Celtic bench rubbing his surgically-repaired knee while watching another losing season as "Title Town" would have been no more than "Cursed Town."
It's not even too far of a stretch to say that Paul Pierce might not have even been a Celtic, for he would be the first to tell you that he wanted O-U-T, and KG and Ray Allen would be in the same boat watching their tremendous careers fade into a series of "Yeah, but..."
Stop the nonsense. These three are some of the best ever to play the game and what they accomplished this summer doesn't prove that; it merely adds to an already tremendous legacy.
KG's 10 All-Star appearances were not a fluke, Paul Pierce's 17,000 points were not a result of lucky rolls, and Ray Allen's 2,100 three-pointers didn't drop by themselves.
If there is anything this season should prove, it's that it takes an incredible set of fortunate circumstances to create a championship team.
First off, you need team talent, not merely a dominant individual (ask Kobe), and that includes a strong bench (James Posey, Leon Powe, and Eddie House) and valuable veteran experience (P.J. Brown and even *sigh* Sam "Shoot Shoot Shoot" Cassell" ).
Without these pieces, no team has a chance, no matter how good the "franchise player" is. Hell, if Jordan couldn't do it for the first half of his career, how can you expect anyone else to do it?
It wasn't until he had the pieces around him that he was able to truly contend, but had he not won those championships, would he not have been a transcendent player? Would he have not been Michael Jordan?
In that same way, KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce were champions before they ever put themselves in this position to earn their first rings.
Each of them has been a model of consistency for 10-plus years, and this new championship is just the icing on the cake. This ring does not define their careers; their careers define their careers.
Without the consistent body of work, the bling means nothing.