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Kevin Garnett: Celtics broke LeBron James

Kevin Garnett and LeBron James

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 1: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat watches the loose ball against Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs on June 1, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics eliminated LeBron James’ Cavaliers in the 2008 and 2010 second rounds. Then, LeBron joined the Heat with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and beat Boston in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs.

Here’s Kevin Garnett’s take on those postseason battles, particularly the seven-game 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

Former Celtics forward Kevin Garnett on The Bill Simmons podcast:

We broke LeBron. So, get your ass out of here with that. You understand how he got to Cleveland, how he got to Miami, Bill? You remember that? So stop bringing that up, all right?
So they was talking s— to him, the media. And the league knew that they had an agenda in which we wasn’t part of the agenda. You understand? Right. And that’s how they ended up winning that series. Yeah, I said it.
Let me say something to you: The C’s, we didn’t give a f— about LeBron. We didn’t fear LeBron, and we didn’t think that he could beat all five of us. And that’s how it felt. He was trying to consolidate, because he didn’t want the pressure on him. You understand?
We weren’t part of the agenda. The agenda was Miami. He wasn’t going to Miami to be like Cleveland.
That’s sensitive to all of us. A lot of us think that it’s sports. If you had D Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron over in this corner and you had me, TA – I’m just making these names up – and maybe Paul and Rondo right here, it’d be a what’s up, and it’d be cool and respect. But it won’t be any fraternizing. It ain’t going to be any, “Yo, how the family?” It won’t be none of that. It’s real. They don’t f— with us, we don’t f— with them. But it’s cool, though. It’s a mutual understanding. We have respect for each other, but it won’t be – When I did the interview with D Wade, that was me having to interview D Wade. But part of me, he knows, and he knows. We talked about that off-camera, and it was an understanding. But everybody knows that that’s in there. We go to All-Star games, they’re on that side, we’re right here.

But did the Celtics really break LeBron?

LeBron looked broken after losing to Boston in 2010. He also put himself back together better than ever before.

On Garnett’s advice, LeBron left for better supporting talent in Miami. Hardened by those playoff losses, LeBron elevated his game. He won eight straight Eastern Conference titles.

Those 2012 Eastern Conference finals were an inflection point. LeBron was coming off a personally devastating loss in the NBA Finals the year prior. Questions swirled about his killer instinct, especially once the Celtics took a 3-2 lead. But LeBron dominated Games 6 and 7 to carry the Heat to victory and an eventual championship. It wasn’t some mysterious agenda. It was LeBron and Miami being that good.

Boston deserves credit for pushing LeBron toward his elite potential.

By forming his own big three in Miami, LeBron emulated the Celtics with Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. LeBron rose to the occasion on the court only when pushed to the brink by the Celtics.

I appreciate Garnett’s old-school competitiveness. That’s true to who he is. He instilled that attitude in Boston and, by extension, forced LeBron to reckon with it.

Boston was great. LeBron eventually became better.

But just because Garnett held this outlook doesn’t mean all the Celtics shared it. It’s easy for Boston to write off Ray Allen as a traitor for joining LeBron in Miami. But Rajon Rondo is now playing with LeBron on the Lakers.

The Celtics beat LeBron then LeBron toppled the Celtics. It was a great battle, and now the war is over.

Except in Garnett’s mind.