Boston Celtics: Ranking the 4 Greatest "Big 3's" in Their History
When one thinks of the Boston Celtics "Big Three," of course the current group of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett is the first to come to mind. Yet behind 17 NBA championships and over 30 Hall of Fame inductees, it is evident there were plenty more trios that were strong contributors in the success of the team over the decades.
Larry Bird and Bill Russell were two players, albeit from different decades, that were part of prominent Celtic "Big Threes" that challenge the likes of Pierce and the current group for the top spot.
Here are the four best "Big Threes" in Boston Celtics history.
No. 4: Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White
Dave Cowens and John Havlicek, with the help of Jo Jo White, made as solid a core as there was on any NBA team in the 1970s, and also throughout Boston Celtics history.
This group won two championships together in both 1974 and 1976. Cowens led the team in rebounding during each of the the championship seasons—grabbing 15.7 per game in 1974 and 16 per game in 1976. Havlicek and White were known more for their consistent scoring.
Havlicek was entering the later stages of his career during the mid-1970s, while Cowens and White were in their prime and quickly on their way becoming elite players in the league. Cowens was the youngest of the group.
With Larry Bird known for dominating the 1980s and Bill Russell remembered for his career in the 1950s and '60s, people tend to forget how effective this particular "Big Three" was. They won two championships under head coach Tom Heinsohn, cementing their status as key contributors to team history.
No. 3: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen
Currently, the Boston Celtics boast a core of three experienced veterans who have already helped the team to win an NBA Championship in 2008.
Since the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in Boston, the Celtics are a team that has a winning style of play for the first time since the days of Larry Bird in the 1980s. With a defensive mindset under Doc Rivers and no shortage of offensive talent, this team has been able to get it done, time and time again, and continue to be perennial championship contenders.
What makes these three so effective is that they each have games that complement one another. Pierce is a player that demands the ball down the stretch, and he can beat you with his jump shot or his strong drive to the basket. Garnett is a player that brings a lockdown defensive mentality, as well as a sound, intelligent arsenal on the offensive end. Allen is a knock-down shooter that is counted on for his three-ball, as well as his efforts down the stretch to make big buckets.
Many claim that this is the last season that this current "Big Three" will get the chance to compete for an NBA Championship together—as Pierce and Company will look to try and take down the 2010 Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.
No. 2: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish
The "Big Three" of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale could be argued by many to be the most dominant core of players to ever step foot on the hardwood together.
Winning three championships in the 1980s was a significant accomplishment for the simple fact that the league was arguably as competitive as it had ever, and has ever, been. It was during the days of Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boys in Detroit, as well as the dominant force in the Los Angeles Lakers that these Celtics were winning championships.
It's hard to say that this group takes the throne from a team like the Celtics of the late 1950s and 1960s—a group that won 11 championships in 13 seasons. But considering the level of competition that Bird, Parish and McHale had to compete against, one could make a valid argument claiming that this particular "Big Three" is in the running for the No. 1 spot.
Bird had the ability to make plays and was a flat-out scorer from anywhere on the court. McHale had a nose for the ball, and could rebound well. Parish was a tough defensive player who also contributed with his scoring ability. The three complemented each other, and helped the Celtics win championships when the NBA was as competitive of a league as it has ever been.
No. 1: Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn
It's a difficult task to argue with the amount of success these three had when they hit the court together. These three men were responsible for bringing home a total of six NBA Championships together.
Russell would go on to win 11 championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics. The later ones came with help from players like John Havlicek and Sam Jones once Cousy and Heinsohn were no longer playing.
Cousy was arguably one of the best point guards to ever play the game. He was a playmaker who could score at will when taking the ball to the basket. Heinsohn was a scoring threat as well, and was the team's most consistent rebounder outside of Russell. It wasn't every day that a player averaged nine to 10 rebounds a game and did not even lead his team in that category. Heinsohn was actually second on the team in rebounds behind Russell, who was often putting up over 20 rebounds a contest.
The three won a plethora of championships and were all Hall of Fame talents. In fact, this particular group helped the Celtics win just over one-third of the 17 NBA Championships that they have won in their history. These three might not have played against the level of competition that the "Big Three" of the 1980s did, but the success that they had when they made a presence on the hardwood makes them No. 1.
Russell, Cousy and Heinsohn were the most dominant "Big Three" in team history.