Bailey Howell won the first of his two NBA Championship rings with the Boston Celtics 40 years ago.
On Tuesday night, Howell watched the current Celtics complete the biggest one-season turnaround in NBA history, swamping the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 to win the 17th championship in franchise history.
For Howell – and for anybody who knows basketball – the Celtics’ victory confirms one of basketball’s basic tenets: The great team always trumps the great individual.
“The Celtics played as a team,” Howell said. “A lot about basketball has changed with the 3-point line and all that, but one thing hasn’t changed. Basketball is – and always has been – a team sport. The Celtics played more as a team.
“A brilliant individual player such as Kobe Bryant can win a lot of games until you get to the playoffs and championship level, but then if he doesn’t have some help, and a lot of help, the great team will beat him. That’s what we saw.”
Some fans have a one-sided concept about what team basketball means, Howell said. They think of “team basketball” in terms of passing and sharing the basketball, moving the ball around until somebody has an open shot.
The Celtics certainly did that, but that’s only part of it.