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Bird, Parish and McHale: Won't The Real Big Three Please Stand Up?

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Bird, Parish and McHale: Won't The Real Big Three Please Stand Up?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In 2007, the Boston Celtics had quite the offseason, as Danny Ainge (the team’s Director of Basketball Operations) acquired perennial All-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.  

For the first time in his career, franchise captain and nine-year veteran Paul Pierce saw himself supplemented by players with proven track records of high-caliber performance in the NBA.

The two additions were announced within a week of each other and along with Pierce, they were dubbed “The Big Three.”

This, of course, is an homage to the great frontline of the 1980’s teams, consisting of center Robert Parish and forwards Kevin McHale and Larry Bird, who originally carried the title.

A new era had begun… let’s stop right there. 

At the time, it was easy to understand where the press was coming from. This was, in essence, highly anticipated to be a return to glory for the most storied franchise in the NBA's history.

Really, the last truly competitive Celtics teams to take the court were with the original Big Three and since they had disassembled, teams hadn’t exactly been green with envy. So, the growing excitement was understandable, and given that the nickname was being borrowed in-house, so to speak, fans were pretty accepting of it (myself included).

In hindsight, it does seem a little premature. What if the players hadn’t been as quick to gel? It’s pretty rare that such prolific weapons, deep into their careers, have come together on the same team.

Does the trend of using "The Big Three" nickname for unproven threesomes bother you?

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As it turned out, The (New) Big Three were pretty big and in their first season together, they brought home an NBA Championship. 

This past offseason, the NBA has seen what many would call an even more anticipated marriage, when Cleveland’s LeBron James and Toronto’s Chris Bosh “took their talents to South Beach” and joined Dwayne Wade in Miami. James has long been considered one of the top two players in the NBA and popular opinion has Wade not too far behind; Bosh, also, is one of the league’s best players in the power forward slot.

And once again, the title of “The Big Three” has been recycled. 

Question: Is anyone else, around the nation and in the city of Boston especially, a little upset by this trend? 

I mean, I realize there are far more severe injustices going on in the world, and maybe this is a little trivial, but it seems irresponsible (and highly unoriginal) to be throwing this label around considering it carries the legacy of three of the NBA’s “50 Greatest Players” and a three-time championship winning ensemble with it. 

It’s even gotten to the point that I hear announcers discussing which players, on this team or that, constitute its “Big Three.”

To me, it somewhat discredits what those 80’s Celtics teams accomplished.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As I said, I was pretty accepting of the usage when it came to Pierce, Garnett and Allen because it was originally a Celtics trio that carried the title—it was almost like a passing of the torch, albeit nearly 20 years later. And even still, I had a slight sense of resistance to it.

But now? Now, it’s just gotten out of hand. I can’t think of another instance where something along these lines has occurred—and it’s for good reason.  

I’ll say it again—Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Larry Bird were all named to the NBA's list of "50 Greatest Players" in 1996, during the league’s 50th anniversary celebration. They also won three championships together in 1981, 1984 and 1986. 

Whatever the label meant initially, the success of the teams they played for elevated the meaning behind it, and if you ask me, “The Big Three” commands more respect than it’s getting from commentators, analysts, the press, fans and players alike.

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