Battle of the Superteams: LeBron James’ Heat vs. Kevin Garnett’s Celtics
Wednesday night, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade played what almost certainly was his final game against the Boston Celtics, ending one of the most intense rivalries the NBA has seen over the past decade. Wade faced the Celtics in three consecutive playoffs from 2010-12, with LeBron James participating in the latter two series after he had been vanquished by Boston multiple times in previous years.
The Celtics’ Big Three featured Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen (Rajon Rondo wasn’t too shabby either), while the Heat’s Big Three featured Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. Both teams cemented themselves as two of the most dominant superteams in the history of the NBA.
But who was better? Let’s do a simple analysis.
First year together
The Celtics assembled their Big Three before the beginning of the 2007-08 season, when they traded for Garnett and Allen and teamed them up Pierce. Since the three were experienced veterans, it didn’t take long for them to jell on the court. KG punished opponents in the post, Allen hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer, and Pierce was just unstoppable in isolation. They 2007-08 Celtics were one of the most dominant regular-season teams of all time and won the NBA Finals over the Los Angeles Lakers in six games after struggling a bit to get out of the East.
The Heat, on the other hand, didn’t need trades back in 2010. They had enough cap space to re-sign Wade as well as sign James and Bosh, all of whom were free agents. They had their early struggles, but they came together and cruised through the Eastern Conference to set up a Finals matchup against the Dallas Mavericks.
Unfortunately, Miami folded in the Finals, with LeBron himself struggling as the Mavs stunned the world.
The Celtics’ Big Three lasted for five seasons. They were always a contender in each of those years, but they were not able to win another championship after their 2008 title run. They reached the Finals in 2010 but lost to the Lakers in seven games. To make things worse, Allen left Boston to join Miami in the summer of 2012.
The Heat’s triumvirate lasted for four seasons only but reached the NBA Finals in all of their seasons together. The team won two titles behind their Big Three before LeBron decided to leave the team and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he went on to continue his Finals appearance streak for four more seasons.
Miami and Boston only had two full seasons to go head-to-head against each other with their respective Big Threes still intact. During both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, the Celtics won the regular-season series three games to one.
However, the Celtics weren’t able to maintain their regular-season success in the playoffs, as they lost to the Heat in five games back in 2011 and then lost again in a classic seven-game series the following year.
Winner: It should be given to the team that emerged victorious when things mattered most. So, this round goes to the Heat.
There is no denying that Garnett, Pierce, and Allen complemented each other very well. When healthy, they were a dominant defensive team. There is no doubt that they are all Hall of Famers because of what they accomplished as individuals.
But the Heat had LeBron, considered by many as the best player in the history of the league, and Wade, one of the best shooting guards to ever play. As good as the Celtics’ trio was, none of them were ever as good as LeBron or Wade. Also, Bosh was always underrated and would’ve done more in his career if it wasn’t shortened by blood clots.
Furthermore, KG, Allen, and Pierce joined forces at the later stages of their careers, while LeBron, Wade, and Bosh were at the peak of their primes when they took their talents to South Beach. So, there’s little question that the Heat’s trio had more to offer in terms of individual talent.
Although Miami convincingly won this bout, nothing should be taken away from Boston and what its Big Three was able to accomplish. Both teams gave fans a ton of memorable moments, especially in the playoffs, and we’re all looking forward to the next time they play against each other, even if the faces are all different.