BOSTON -- My first thought was the usual one: Freeman's wrong. Whatever his side is, I'll take the other one. In this case, he thinks the 2008 Celtics would hammer the 1986 Celtics because Boston's current Big Three is better than its best three from 1986.
My question: Which three from 1986?
|Larry Bird's Celtics had to go through some fairly decent competition to succeed in the '80s. (Getty Images)|
And it bears repeating that they had Larry Bird.
On second thought, my first thought was incorrect. Freeman isn't incorrect.
But I know where he made his mistake. He made it in the same place lots of people would make it. He recently watched the 1986 Celtics on television, saw the speed of the game back then, and reached his fatal conclusion: These Celtics are too fast, too athletic, for those Celtics.
Fine. But if that were the criteria, then the 2008 Denver Nuggets -- with uber-athletes like Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith and Nene -- would have clocked those 1986 Celtics, too. And nobody's saying that, right?
It's so easy to dismiss the past as too old, too slow, irrelevant. The 1986 Celtics were a 45-rpm record compared to today's, well, I was going to say today's Celtics are a 78-rpm record, but nobody in today's NBA knows what a vinyl record is. Or a tape cassette. Pretty soon the CD will be replaced by music downloaded straight into our medulla oblongata, and when that day comes will we write off the compact disc as an overrated dinosaur? I don't think so. The CD dominated pop culture. I saw it with my own eyes.
The 1986 Celtics did the same to the NBA. I saw that, too.
If Freeman or anyone else is going to play the "today's athletes are superior" card, I'll end this nonsense right now by bringing out my trump: Yesterday's athletes, the best of the best in their era, would have been the best of the best of any era. Had Bird, McHale and Parish (or Johnson ... or Ainge ...) been born in the 1980s instead of the '50s and '60s, had they spent their summers gorging on today's AAU ball instead of fishing or playing baseball or whatever the best teen basketball players did back then, they'd have emerged as dominant now as they were then. It's evolution. It's competition. It's common sense.
And those 1986 Celtics weren't just champions. They were the best of the best. In the past 25 or 30 years, those Celtics were rivaled by just one outfit, the Los Angeles Lakers -- and not the bastardized, one-dimensional version of the Lakers that the current Celtics had the good fortune of facing in the 2008 NBA Finals. The only team(s) that could compare with the Celtics from the 1980s were the Lakers of the same decade, which remains the greatest decade in league history. More teams had more stars than ever. Big Three? Hell, in those days entire starting fives were awesome. So were some sixth men. McHale and Michael Cooper and Vinnie Johnson and Bobby Jones came off the bench in the 1980s.