The Miami Heat are NOT going to win a ring without a productive Chris Bosh. Let’s get that out of the way first before we go any further.
With Chris Bosh out, the Indiana Pacers are a better team on paper than the Miami Heat. It’s not too big a disparity. But there’s no doubt. LeBron and Wade are wonderful players. LeBron earned that MVP this year. I think for the first time, unequivocally at least, LeBron put in the all around effort required, on and off the court, of a true NBA champion. He’s not clowning around anymore. Wade always got it.
But Chris Bosh is an All-Star loss. He was also the only other starting-quality player to, well, start for the Miami Heat. Or play on it’s roster. And he was their best big man on both ends of the floor. He could shoot from the 4 and the 5, rebound and even defend from the 4 and the 5. He hits his free throws. He took a mini-leap of his own in regards to approach this year, although Bosh has always been subject to giving us moments like this. But he’s good, and the collection of names you’d expect better play from (Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and .. I guess if you were stupid, Joel Anthony) have not been stepping up even a little bit for their superstar teammates.
I won’t flesh out the statistical evidence here for what I just wrote, but it’s out there. Check it out. Think about all the teams that have ever won an NBA title, or even the more recent champions. How many teams had a guy just like Bosh, in terms of role? A lot. The Lakers, Celtics and Spurs all built contenders around versatile, two-way hybrid forward centers.
They may still beat Indiana on pedigree and grit alone. You have to expect that one of the aforementioned under-achievers will slap together a few made baskets by accident. But it may be more merciful to go out now and end the suspense. Because this team is not beating a healthy Boston Celtics squad without Chris Bosh.
People can laud the death of the true center, and Shaquille O’Neal is indeed the one man who can enter this converation and say “except for me, bitches!” with no shame, but the one consistent feature of each contending team over the past decade plus is what I will affectionately refer to as the Kevin Garnett Prototype.
Don’t twist that, either. KG represents the last real quantum leap this league took back in 1995. Against all popular conception, the Wolves committed to an 18 year old Kevin Garnett with the 5th overall pick, making him the first player to be drafted out of high school since the great Bill Willoughby back in 1975. Why did a struggling Minnesota expansion team go for this seemingly outrageously risky move, especially when popular opinion said high school players were too immature for the NBA (And then proceeded to, you know, draft Rasheed “Mature” Wallace right ahead of Garnett. Go figure.)?
Well, we know now that they obviously saw a guy with tremendous work ethic and loyalty in addition to the skills. But it always comes down to the skills. Garnett broke the mold because he was just that good. It’s fun to imagine what he would have done with a Kevin Durant-esque one and done college basketball career.
It’s almost a cliche at this point what Garnett represents, but despite having won just won championship his career has been a wild success in two regards.
1. He is pretty unequivocally a top 5 PF of all time. He has accomplished it all as an individual and teammate. And no one ever, ever questioned his work ethic or dedication, perhaps his sanity, but not the other stuff. So there’s that.
2. He broke the door open for all of these other dudes to truly dominate, and be sought after as franchise cornerstones. With Jordan in full effect, every team was trying to snag high flying guards. And they were saying “let this guy shoot all day like Jordan, hopefully we’ll win and if we don’t at least the fans will pay”. Sometimes this worked (Kobe, T-Mac) sometimes it didn’t (Vince Carter, Steve Francis, I would argue Allen Iverson). But the truth no one wanted to accept was that Shooting Guard Hero Ball was a Championship blueprint that would be born and die with Michael Jordan, a man for whom the usual rules simply do not apply.
You could argue Duncan finally ended this silliness with his epic 1999 rookie season where he should have frankly won every individual accolade the league has to offer. It blows the mind to think about today. Imagine Blake Griffin stats, with all the stuff he doesn’t do. And winning. Lots of winning. It’s one of the best rookie seasons ever.
But KG came first and you gotta give him that. Since then, with one Shaq-sized exception, their kind has dominated the highest levels of NBA play. Duncan has watched “contenders” rise and fall around him since that rookie season. The Clippers have “rebuilt” like 5 times during this one stretch by the Spurs! But let’s go back year by year…
2011 – Dirk. He finally won when Tyson Chandler provided the defense/rebounding part of the Prototype that Dirk never could. Immediately wins ring. Not a coincidence.
2010 – Pau. Kobe as well, providing lots of good things, but this about the 7 footers and one could make the case that Pau should have been Finals MVP in 2010.
2009 – Pau again.
2008 – KG. After a career of playing with the Ervin Johnson’s and Trenton Hassell’s of the world, he gets professional help and immediately wins a ring.
2007 – Timmy Dunks and the Boys
2006 – Our Shaq-ception in action, with D. Wade playing Jordan. Beat Dirk as an incomplete prototype pre Chandler.
2005 – Timmy Dunks and the Boys
2004 – Pistons. A strange, strange year. But the rules still apply. What put the Pistons over the top, that season? Ha! A midseason trade for Rasheed Wallace. Guess what kind of player he was, besides one that was probably high a lot? You got it.
2003 – TDatB
2002 – Shaq-ception
2001 – Shaq-ception
2000 – Shaq-ception.
1999 – TDatB.
We can argue circumstance all day. The point is this. Besides the most freakishly dominant physical specimen this game has ever seen, the great teams in our league have had one blaringly obvious correlation. Besides good defense, depth and coaching, the one GUY that all those teams have is the Kevin Garnett Prototype.
It’s only fitting that Garnett and Duncan are enjoying a career renaissance in this years playoffs, with really nothing else besides health, rest and age to blame for recent dips in play. Everyone has been waiting on LeBron since 2003. He and a certain Mr. Kevin Durant are probably going to have a similar article written about them in 10 years, with multiple championships abound for each guy. Their amalgamation of skills (really just a smaller, quicker, better shooting offspring of the Kevin Garnett Prototype) is simply a reflection of rule changes and what they make more fun and effective on the court.
For now, the Spurs and the Celtics have earned our respect and are back on top until further notice. They have the resume and the “what have you done for me lately” results that denote a contender. They have also stayed healthier than most of the other contenders still alive and kicking. But maybe, just maybe, they’ve been hanging around this whole time because of the Kevin Garnett Prototype, the blueprint for a decade of NBA dominance.
(Photo via Flickr/themikelee)