TBH: The ’08 Celtics Have Always Been A Little Bit Weird
On Monday night, Kevin Garnett hosted a 2007-08 Boston Celtics reunion on his show 'Area 21' on TNT. In attendance were Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins and Glen 'Big Baby' Davis, who was clearly the fill-in for the notably, albeit predictably absent Ray Allen.
The Celtics squad that won the 2008 NBA Finals and made another Finals in 2010 featured three bonafide future Hall of Famers who essentially reinvented the NBA 'Big Three' blueprint that was eventually replicated in Miami with Dwyane Wade, Lebron James and Chris Bosh. Go all in on your franchise player (Pierce) by bringing in a couple of championship-hungry veteran superstars (Garnett and Allen) who are still in their prime.
That's why Allen's departure from Boston after the 2012 season was a controversial one, as he made the decision to join the rival Heat and chase another ring with the "new" Big Three. But it was the way he handled it with his longtime teammates that left them with the bad taste in their mouths that they've never been able to get rid of. While it was public knowledge that Rondo and Allen never really got along, they were a core group that'd spent a few years as one of the most dominant teams in all of basketball - and Allen's abrupt move to Miami without warning or explanation caused a rift that still exists today.
So during the televised reunion, Garnett broached the subject to his former teammates, and things quickly got umcomfortably real. Here's what the guys (minus a characteristically mute Rondo) had to say about Allen deciding to pack up and leave to play for their greatest rivals in the middle of the night:
The reaction to this entire exchange has been just about what you'd expect:
It was a bizarre and oddly honest conversation, and while most NBA fans were aware of the fractured relationship with Allen, it's never been publicly discussed in such detail. It's unprecedented for a group of guys to get together and talk about a former teammate like that without inviting him on to defend himself, and it did seem as if the wounds were fresher than they should be.
However I think we can all agree that it's also unprecedented to have an anniversary of your NBA Finals win... so who's to say what's normal with these guys?
When was the last time you can remember a group of basketball players being so territorial of a team that every single one of them ended up moving on from? Whatever bond that team had, it's clearly atypical.
Even the stoic Rondo is protective of the camaraderie that the '08 Celtics had during their heyday. Earlier this year he ripped his fellow veterans on the Bulls (including Dwyane Wade) for openly criticizing their teammates in the media, posting an Instagram photo of himself with Pierce and Garnett with the following caption:
"My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn't pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn't take days off. My vets didn't care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn't blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn't have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn't change the plan because it didn't work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can't win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I'm not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don't deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it's the leadership."
In today's NBA there aren't many teammates who are as tightly knit as that team was, and apparently still is. In fact, there aren't many teams in the history of the league that stayed quite as loyal to each other even after they'd all parted ways. The protectiveness they exhibit over each other is archaic in the modern culture of team hopping and free agency.
It's not really up to me to say whether that approach is better or worse than players just treating their careers like a business and their relationships with teammates as transactional - but for anyone who has been paying attention to their collective careers, the fact that Pierce, Garnett and Co. still feel this way about Allen should come as no surprise.
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