Book Review: “Top Of The World”
Despite covering the NBA in-depth with media credentials last season there are still countless aspects of the season I haven’t full grasped. Call it a case of going through my rookie season and some things being a blur, but even after being full submerged in the NBA by talking with countless coaches and players, there are still some stories I still don’t full appreciate or comprehend.
Unfortunately, watching the Boston Celtics magical march from the worst record in the NBA to being crowned NBA Champions is one such story line.
It’s not that I wasn’t aware of how special this feat was, it’s just that there are so many bylines that as a journalist based out of Toronto I wasn’t able to fully grasp all of the roster moves, hard work and luck that went into assembling last years NBA Champions.
After reading Peter May’s book “Top of the World” I now have a greater appreciation for all that went into the Celtics Championship season last year.
The book started with a chapter called “Ping-Pong History” with anecdotes about the lucky suit Wyc Grousbeck wore to the NBA Draft Lottery, how close Boston was to dealing Paul Pierce in 2007 for the draft pick which would turn into Chris Paul, how Danny Ainge was one of the few people in the Celtics organization set on building a team around Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, insight into what went through Paul Pierce’s mind when he found out Boston had secured the fifth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft and a look at how close Pierce came to being dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The book then shifted into accounts of two pivotal deals Danny Ainge did make: the acquisition of future Hall of Famers Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett through some shrewd deals.
I’ll admit that while watching the 2007 NBA Draft at a pub in Toronto I was chuckling that the Raptors divisional rival had dealt for an aging jump shooter coming off surgery on both of his ankles. Little did I know the Allen deal was only a precursor to a much larger deal which would see Garnett dealt to Boston. The Celtics had a deal in place before the draft for Garnett, but the forward rebuked the deal because he didn’t want to turn his back on the state of Minnesota or join another team that lingered near the bottom of the standings.
Cue the Allen deal which helped Garnett and Pierce realize the Celtics were serious about turning things around in Boston.
Until the Allen deal was finalized, neither Pierce nor Garnett felt the Celtics were serious about contending for an NBA Championship. But with Allen in the mix alongside Pierce, it provided Garnett with peace of mind to see that going to Boston wouldn’t result in another season hovering in the bottom third of the standings.
What’s amazing is how close the Allen deal came to stalling. Seattle was holding firm on a package involving Rajon Rondo and it was only at the last moment they relented and agreed to the Celtics package. If this hadn’t gone through I doubt we would have seen Garnett in Boston last season. Instead, Celtics fans would have seen Shawn Marion, Pau Gasol or Jason Kidd. While all three of those players are talented and would have formed a nice trio alongside Pierce and Al Jefferson, I don’t think it would have resulted in a championship for Boston.
While it’s easy to look back at all the move Danny Ainge made and shrug your shoulders and easily dismiss what happened as just another championship, the fact that he was able to turn a team with the worst record in the NBA to it’s champions is utterly remarkable. Reading this book provided me with an opportunity to learn about how some deals almost fell through, why Ainge elected to sign certain players to the roster and how assistant coach Tom Thibodeau almost wasn’t hired because Larry Brown wanted the gig. All of these twists and turns added to my amazement that their championship season unfolded like it did.
Because of this, reading this book was like sitting down to an all-you-can-eat buffet and stuffing myself full of stories, anecdotes and insight into one of the more memorable seasons in the history of the NBA; my only complaint is that it was that my feast only last 235 pages.