Bear with me, because this will be long and will be comparing players to movie characters (which always requires some suspense of disbelief). That said, I like watching epic movies and obviously I’m currently living and dying with this Celtics team. After KG came back this weekend, I’ve seen a few threads on the message board or game comments trying to capture exactly what he means to this team. And in those same threads, like always, I see a few Cs fans slightly offended that KG gets so much attention/credit that they feel should maybe go to the Captain. So I was trying to figure out a way besides numbers-crunching to put a finger on exactly what it is that each player brings to the table, and I hit upon a variation of an article idea I’d had last season involving KG and another player. But I think it fits for Pierce as well, so I figured I’d run it up the CB flagpole and see if it gets saluted or shot full of holes.
Achilles: Obviously Achilles is a legendary literary figure, but for this comp I’m going to go with the Achilles from the movie Troy. Achilles was just a beast of a fighter. He would go to war with the army, but at his heart he was a 1-on-1 gladiator. He was the army’s champion…all of the other soldiers knew that if need be, he would go up against the best that the enemy had to offer 1-on-1 and likely take him down. For the enemy, his very name was intimidating… “Oh, no! Achilles is here, we might be doomed!” For his own side, having Achilles around gave them added security that helped them fight better, and since the opponent was focused so much on Achilles’ heroism it gave them an advantage fighting against a somewhat distracted foe.
For this Celtics team, Pierce is their Achilles. Enemies and friends alike know that for the past decade he has been a solo warrior, but that he has taken on all comers and 1-on-1 he has proven up to the test. Pierce can do many things well on the court that help a team, but at his heart he is a scorer that can’t really be contained when he’s feeling it. So when the Cs need a lot of points in a hurry and the announcers start playing the Superman music (or when KG starts humming it), Pierce is the one that can best answer that bell. Plus, when you factor in that unlike movie Achilles (who was really like a mercenary) Pierce is the longest tenured Celtic and the Captain, he not only helps the team feel short-term confident that he can come through but the team also knows that he will always be there representing for them when the chips are down.
William Wallace: Those that saw Braveheart know that William Wallace was a bit different than Achilles. Wallace was also a fearsome 1-on-1 fighter, but at his heart he was more about inspiring his followers to fight their best than he was about fighting on his own. In my initial article idea I was going to go with Maximus from Gladiator here because he was also a great general who could fight, but while Maximus led his army with brilliant tactics Wallace led his people with his heart. While both Maximus and Achilles led armies that conquered in the field, Wallace led his followers like a family in an uprising to topple an impossibly strong foe. He used dirty tricks, taunts, whatever was needed to give his side an advantage. And he led his followers with a passion bordering on insanity, screaming at them and cajoling them until they would do things completely outside of their comfort zone and fight suicidal battles just because he made them feel it. Heck, just watching the movie during one of his speeches was almost enough to make me get up and attack the first tyranny I saw yelling “Free-dom”!
For these Celtics, KG is William Wallace. Over the last decade he has put together an individual resume that can stand against any player in history, but for him it is always more about his team than it is his individual glory. He leads vocally, from the front, screaming at friends and enemies alike with an almost insane intensity that is so over the top that from the outside he gets some criticism for either being fake (no one could REALLY be that passionate) or crazy (there’s something WRONG with anyone that demonstrably passionate). But you know what? His teammates, the ones that are in there with him, would run through a brick wall if he told them to. The Celtics’ commitment to defense…while Thibs and Doc can teach the techniques, KG’s will is what took a crew of historically not-enthusiastic defenders and formed it into a historically strong unit. We may have all learned the word “UBUNTU” last season from Doc, but KG’s been living that with his team for his whole career. And there’s no stat for “making teammates better” or “infusing confidence by mere presence”, but if there were one KG would lead the league in it. This is how a former teammate (with nothing to gain by complimenting him) described what it was like to have KG on his side:
“That's why I was so successful my rookie year,'' said (Randy) Foye, who has sputtered in the season-plus (since Garnett left). "No matter what happened, if I made a mistake, I'd look at him and he'd go [Foye balls up a fist and pumps it], like 'It's all right. Keep your head up.'
"It makes you feel better. It'd be like that for anyone in their work, if there was a legend who pumped you up. For a young player, that just boosted my confidence. Sometimes, in my rookie year, I felt like an All-Star out there because he let me do what I wanted and when I got it going, he let me go.'
In games, Foye said, it was like having your big brother there to hold your coat in a schoolyard fight. "There was a swagger," he said. "KG would come out and hit a shot, and it was like, 'Everybody, we're in this together. I'm patrolling it, but everybody who's got a white jersey on, we're in it together. "
Pierce is one of the best Achilles-types in the NBA, but there are others with Kobe, LeBron, and Wade as the obvious ones. KG, though, has got to be the most Wallace-like player in today’s NBA by a big margin which makes him a bit unique and maybe garners him a bit more attention (even though he tries with all of his might to deflect as much as he can back to the team). But for the team itself, I don’t think any of that matters. Pierce is the strong sword arm for this team, while Garnett is the shield and the fighting spirit. Among Celtics fans there is no need for competition between Pierce and Garnett, because they each have their role and fulfill it to the utmost. Without either of them the team would be entirely different, and would suffer for the loss. With them, we just might be in the midst of an NBA dynasty. And for me, that’s better than any epic movie I’ve ever seen.