A Look Back: The 2010 Boston Celtics and The Beginning of the LeBron James Era


If anyone is familiar at all with SpongeBob SquarePants, you’ll remember a particular scene when Patrick Star comes home to find a bunch of eyes sticking out from under his rock, a sight that elicits an appropriate reaction of shock. “WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?” he screams.

That may or may not be your reaction to the above image. The subjects of the phtograph are from a time that basketball forgot; a time that, for younger basketball fans, seems to be one of fantasy. “An Eastern Conference team without LeBron James made the NBA Finals?” That’s right, little Jimmy. Oh, you have so much to learn.

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Last week, the good people over at SportsNation alerted the Twittersphere that the last time LeBron wasn’t the king of the Eastern Conference was in 2010. The Eastern Conference Champions that year? Our beloved Boston Celtics. With King James and company preparing to compete for yet another NBA Championship, now seems like as good a time as any to travel back in time to the glory days.

The 2009-2010 NBA season. It’s hard to believe that was six years ago. Here are some of the big storylines from the season.

Blake Griffin was drafted first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers, and with DeAndre Jordan already on the team, the term Lob City was that much closer to its inception. Fans would have to wait to see the high-flying power forward in action though, as a knee injury kept Griffin out for the entirety of the season.

Michael Jordan became the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. Allen Iverson was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies, retired, then unretired to rejoin the Philadelphia 76ers, the team that drafted him and the team he spent most of his career with, only to leave shortly after to attend to family matters. And let’s not forget that Gilbert Arenas brought a gun into the Washington Wizards‘ locker room and was (obviously) suspended indefinitely.

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It was an eventful year for the league, but also for the Celtics. On March 26th, 2010, Rajon Rondo set the Celtics single-season steals record and Paul Pierce set the all-time franchise record for free throws made.

As a whole, the team won 12 fewer games than they did last season, finishing with a 50-32 record. But this was 2010, and the Atlantic Division was still the weakest division in the league, so the Celtics still ended the season in first place.

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Oh, here’s a fun fact. The 2009-2010 Toronto Raptors finished the season 40-42, the same record the Celtics had this year. The 2014-2015 Raptors? 49-33. Had they won just one more game, they would’ve matched the Celtics record from 2010. Small world, huh?

So back to that guy in the picture at the top of the page. In case anyone forgot, that’s Rasheed Wallace. That’s right, Mr. Technical himself. He’s the NBA’s all-time leader with over 300. Yes, at one point during the short-tempered center’s career, he shared the court with the equally short-tempered Kevin Garnett. That’s how long ago 2010 was.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

The 2009-2010 Celtics roster was truly stacked. The Big Three was just getting started. The trash-talker KG, the face of the franchise Pierce, and the formidable sharpshooter Ray Allen were the centerpieces in a starting lineup that was a force to be reckoned with. With Rondo bringing the ball down the court, and center Kendrick Perkins under the basket, this was a team that was poised to go deep.

Their bench? Not so stacked: ‘Sheed, Glen Davis, Tony Allen, Michael Finley, and Nate Robinson. Wallace and Finley are retired, Nate Robinson hasn’t had a real home since he played for the Knicks from 2005-2010 and has bounced from team to team since, and Davis’s best days are behind him. Only Allen, who currently plays for the Grizzlies and was named to the All-Defensive First Team this season, is still relevant. Not a single player from that roster is on the current one. How times have changed.

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Side note, this was probably the last year the Celtics had a starting center to brag about. It’s a shame Fab Melo never worked out, and Tyler Zeller still needs time to prove himself.

Anyway, they did go deep. But only as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, behind the Atlanta Hawks, the Orlando Magic, and to nobody’s surprise, the Cavs.

That’s because LeBron had his way with the league that year. He became the youngest player in NBA history to score 13,000, 14,000, and 15,000 career points… all in the same season. As if that wasn’t enough, he won league MVP, was named to the All-NBA First Team and the All-Defensive First Team, and won Eastern Conference player of the week six times and player of the month four.

LeBron and Shaquille O’Neal (yes, Shaq. 2010 seems like a lot more than five years ago, doesn’t it?) met the Big Three in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Even though they split their regular season series 2-2, Cleveland was still favored over Boston. But as we all know, the Celtics eliminated the Cavs in six games, making King James a non-factor in games 5 and 6, holding him to 3 of 14 and 8 of 21 shooting.

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So LeBron’s season began and ended with a loss to the Celtics. In the Celtics season opener, they beat the Cavs 95-89. The Big 3 all scored in double digits, as did Wallace.

The unexpected exit of the favorites ended with LeBron, disappointed in his lack of rings thus far, packing his bags for South Beach, Dwayne Wade, and the Miami Heat. So, are the 2009-2010 Boston Celtics the reason for the continuing reign of King James? Maybe it is their fault. Or maybe, to put a more positive spin on it, the 2009-2010 Boston Celtics were the last team good enough to keep LeBron James out of the NBA Finals.

What do you miss most about the Big Three days? Let me know in the comments and follow me on Twitter @bRussellSproutt!