The 2008 Boston Celtics squad is known to have one of the best narratives of the sport. It was the first time in modern NBA history that three aging Hall of Famers joined forces and actually won the championship. As always, behind a great ending is a story brimming with doubts and challenges.
Then Celtics general manager Danny Ainge had countless meetings and decisions to form the now-legendary trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. In the book "Top of the World: The Inside Story of the Boston Celtics' Amazing One-Year Turnaround to Become NBA Champions" by Peter May, it turns out that Garnett was the last superstar to say yes to forming a superteam.
Amare or Kobe?
Upon the Celtics' acquisition of Allen in the summer of 2007, Garnett placed the team on his radar. KG already knew Allen's abilities, having known him since high school. However, KG was still waiting for other things to settle. He is not the type who acts on impulse. The former league MVP likes to wait for things to boil before deciding. Besides, the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers were also on his shortlist of teams. But the two teams had some ongoing challenges internally that made Garnett look the other way.
“Steve Nash and I are very close friends. He called me right away,” Garnett said. “But the thing was that if I did go there, I wanted to play with [Amare] Stoudemire, and it didn’t look like he was going to be a part of the plan. It looked like they were going to trade him. LA was going through some difficulties with Kobe and him not wanting to be there. That put that situation into limbo too, even though I do have a home out there and spend a lot of time there. But the problems he was having with management bothered me a lot. I’m thinking, this is their No. 1 player and he’s going through all this? What’s it going to be like for me?”
From the looks of it, KG was looking to create a twin-tower duo with Stoudemire. He was also coming to the aid of his good friend Steve Nash, who proved he could easily guide a team through the long haul of a regular season. In contrast, Nash and head coach Mike D'Antoni could not figure things out in the playoffs.
As for the Lakers, it was pretty elementary. The organization had the best player in the world in Kobe Bryant. They had the winning culture intact. But as KG pointed out, it was a rough time in LA. He did not want to don a jersey of a troubled franchise.
The best option
With the Lakers and Suns out of the list, KG arranged a meeting with Ainge. The general manager detailed his plan for the franchise. Not only was Allen in the mix, but Ainge was also looking to add other critical guys to beef up the roster.
Ainge did not just do the talking. KG, too, chimed in on his apprehensions with his current squad and the rest of the league. That meeting with Ainge was not the moment that changed KG's mind. Interestingly, it was after consulting close friends Chauncey Billups and Tyronn Lue that KG finally deemed Boston as the place to be.
“They already had Ray, and Danny mentioned the other guys he was looking at, like [James Posey], so he put together this map and left that with me,” Garnett said. “I let it brew, so to speak. Let it simmer. Danny was very upfront with me. Very frank. I think I was too in what I was looking for. It was a very, very detailed conversation. I addressed my dislikes about the league and the things I wasn’t happy with in Minnesota. He expressed some of his feelings about his team. When he left, I was still in limbo. I wasn’t convinced. Then I spoke to Chauncey and Ty Lue again and tried to envision myself making this transition but also trying to weigh all the options at the same time. And at the end of the day, it came down to Boston. It was the best option.”
From squeezing out just 24 wins in the previous year, the Celtics topped the league with 66 wins in the 2007-08 season. They made it to the NBA Finals and won a title against their archrivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. And not just that, the concoction of three Hall-of-Famers in one team became the blueprint that many other teams tried to follow, even to this day.