According to ESPN, any player that has averaged 20+ points a game for their career and at least started for a team playing in the championship series has been enshrined in Springfield at the Basketball Hall of Fame. Coming into this season, Kevin Garnett was the only member of the Big 3 considered a sure bet to make the Hall without having to accomplish much more in his career. Paul Pierce was a great player and it was a worthy debate whether he would be having his jersey raised to the rafters, but Hall of Fame was a bit of a stretch. Ray Allen, arguably the most deadliest long range shooter the game has ever seen, was an even further stretch when talking about the greatness of Springfield. After this epic season, I think it is safe to say that there will be a spot for all three of these players.
Kevin Garnett has been touted as a sure-fire Hall of Famer for years now. He has a scoring and rebounding average of 20 and 11, respectively, but it’s his intangibles that make him so great. The defensive presence he brings to the game is almost unmatched because of the intensity he injects into each and every one of his teammates. He has never been a dominant scorer, especially in the paint, but his skill set is something we have never seen from a player his size. His unselfishness has been to a fault prior in his career, but that was a key characteristic of Kevin that made Danny Ainge believe he could mesh with his other two future Hall of Fame teammates.
Ray Allen started his career in Milwaukee and brought his team to the Eastern Conference Finals with his own “Big 3″. Instead of having Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, he was surrounded by Sam Cassell and Glenn “Big Dawg” Robinson. After his tenure in Milwaukee was over, he was shipped to the great Northwest to Seattle where he and Rashard Lewis took them to the playoffs a couple times, but championship aspirations were about as real as Big Foot. Then Ainge pulls the trigger to bring him to the Bean and Ray’s role as premiere scorer in the league greatly diminishes as he is now essentially a 3rd option on a stacked Celtics roster. Arguably having to sacrifice more than both Pierce and Garnett, Ray made big shot after big shot and quickly became the go-to guy in clutch situations. The playoffs showed Ray in perhaps his worst shooting slump of his career, but as the Celtics advanced into the Eastern Conference Finals, he busted out of his slump and shot close to 50% for the rest of the postseason. Ray Allen has definitely earned a spot in the Hall of Fame as not only one of the best shooters of all time, but now an NBA champion.
Paul Pierce has been a great scorer for many years in this league, but has never been a flashy player which perhaps diminished his popularity across the country. Nonetheless, Pierce has carried this franchise on his back with very little help for his 10 year career. A six time All-Star, Paul hadn’t had much playoff success other than one storied trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2002. Pierce was on the brink of demanding a trade out of Boston until Allen and Garnett came to town. Although KG was the big acquisition and the media darling of the Big 3, this was still Paul Pierce’s team. Leading the team in scoring, Pierce was the unquestioned #1 option on offense and really ratcheted up his defense for the entire season. And if you thought that his performance in the regular season was impressive, the show he put on in the post season was a thing of beauty. He dominated in every close-out game and dueled the league’s best players (Kobe & Lebron) and triumphed. In the end, Pierce was crowned Finals MVP on top of being an NBA champion. There really isn’t much debate, in my mind at least, of whether or not Pierce will be in Springfield five years after he retires.
Will this be the only title these three players win together? I hope not but even if it is, I think it is enough to put them all over the top and have them enshrined with the other greats of the game. What would make it even more memorable is if they all retired the same season and were all enshrined together. Of course, a couple extra pieces of jewelry would make the moment that much more memorable.