Formed in 1946, the NBA has grown from having just 11 teams initially to the current roster of 30 teams vying for the title. During it's brief history - brief compared to sports like Soccer - the league has witnessed a number of teams reach great heights and never being able to achieve them again after even a brief downfall. But one team has been able to re-capture its glory repeatedly despite all its setbacks - The Boston Celtics.
The Initial Years
Celtics, which was one of the founding teams of the NBA, struggled during the initial years. Everything changed for the Celtics when Red Auerbach - arguably the the greatest Celtics manager ever - brought Cousy, Russell and Heinsohn to the Boston Garden. Winning 11 titles in 13 years and starting the most gruesome Celtics-Lakers rivalry certainly does give them the right to be called the unofficial first Celtics' 'Big Three'.
Emergence of the 'Big Three'
Then began a period of rebuilding for the Celtics, when they won two titles along the way.
Then in 1980, Auerbach with the signings of Bird, Parish and McHale got together the players who formed the original Celtics' 'Big Three'. It was on their backs that Celtics renewed their rivalry with the Lakers, the highlight of which was the rivalry between two greats - Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. The 'Big Three' led the Celitcs to 3 more titles to get the count to 16, a NBA record.
Bird, plagued with leg and back injuries, retired after a brilliant 13 year career with the Celtics. The unfortunate death of very promising Reggie Lewis robbed the Celtics of the talent that was required to replace the retired stars. This coupled with the infighting within the top brass at the Celtics led to a drastic downfall in the fortunes of this great franchise. Many thought the once great franchise would never emerge from this.
But if there was a team to emerge from the crisis, it was to be the Celtics. They signed soon to be Celtics legend Paul Pierce as the 10th overall draft pick in 1998 who led them to the Conference finals in 2002, first time since 1988. However, the team still lacked the quality to achieve the glory of the past. Building the team required to challenge for the championships would take take them another 5 years.
Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers, with the signings of former MVP Kevin Garnett and all-star Ray Allen to back Paul Pierce in 2007-08, did what almost all the fans had dreamed for the past 20 years - bring back the Celtics' 'Big Three'. After being placed second from bottom in NBA in 2006-07 with a 24-58 record, they shot to having the best record 66-16 in 2007-08. It was a 42 game turnaround, the biggest in NBA history.The Celtics won the championship in their first year together to bring the franchise it's 17th NBA title, after a 21 year dry in a demolition job against their most fierce rivals - the Lakers in 6 easy games.
Even the current 'Big Three' has had it's ups and downs. Kevin Garnett injured his knee in his 2nd season with the Celtics and missed the playoffs. The team missed his leadership and raw aggression on the court in their loss to Magic of the playoff second round.
With questions being raised about their age and attitude, many people predicted a downfall similar to the San Antonio Spurs of three years back. The team entered the 2009-10 season with a bang by starting the season 23-5. But the long season proved a bit difficult for the ageing stars and they fell to 27-27 for the next 54 games. The predictions at the start of the season seemed to be coming true. But the Celtics could never be sidelined. They reached the finals but lost unfortunately to the Lakers in 7 games which was considered to be one of the most exciting playoff finals for a long time.
The 'Big Three' have proven time and again that they have still got the fire inside them to aim for the championship. With 21-4 record and a 12-game winning streak going on, the squad is complimenting the 'Big Three' in their quest for a record 18th championship.