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When the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Damian Lillard last summer, they didn't anticipate Jrue Holiday ending up on the Boston Celtics. But that's how it played out, and fewer than nine months later, the Celtics have added an 18th championship banner to their all-time NBA ledger. 

That is not a coincidence. 

Holiday made the Celtics an entirely different team in ways both tangible and intangible. Not having to be a primary scorer or creator, he thrived in all the right cracks and took Boston's defense, which was filled with interchangeable parts, to a suffocating level. Brad Stevens has made some incredible trades during his time. Landing Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick White are two of the best moves in recent memory. Many would argue getting Holiday was a step above even those two. 

Many would also argue that Holiday -- though he didn't take home Finals MVP honors (that went to Jaylen Brown) -- was actually Boston's most valuable player (to whatever extent that distinction exists on a team this balanced) against the Mavericks for his ability to flat out shut down whoever was in front of him. 

Until Jayson Tatum put up a line of 31-11-8-2 in the clincher on Monday, Holiday's Game 2 performance of 26 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block was the best single-game showing in this series. You would have to go back to Michael Jordan in 1998 to find another player who carded at least 38 points with zero turnovers through the first two games of a Finals, as Holiday did against Dallas. 

The Mavericks' chances in this series ended when Luka Doncic and, to a far greater degree, Kyrie Irving couldn't create any sort of consistent downhill leverage. Brown was a beast, but Holiday had two of the most indefensible creators in the world in shackles every time he was in position to do so. I'm sure it happened at some point, but I can't recall Holiday getting truly beat one time in this series. Against Doncic and Irving? That is an insane thing to say. 

Holiday has always been a terrific player, but since he went to Milwaukee, he has turned out to be one of this era's quintessential winning players. In many ways, he's the proverbial piece that puts a contending team over the hump. There isn't a single team he wouldn't elevate significantly. If you sign him, then a title shot is almost guaranteed to follow. If you were to put Holiday on the Knicks, the Sixers, the Clippers or the Lakers, and if those teams aren't winning a title, they're right in the mix. He really feels that valuable in a playoff context.

Indeed, Holiday is only player in the league to win two championships over the last four years. In fact, he is one of just two players with multiple rings this decade, joining Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who won in 2020 with the Lakers and again last season with the Nuggets

Holiday, of course, helped lead the Bucks to the 2021 championship against the Suns, when, just as he was for Irving, he was a nightmare for Chris Paul. Jalen Brunson recently called Holiday the best defender in the league and I'm not sure how that's even debatable. This guy is otherworldly with his lateral movement, flexibility, strength and anticipation. He just takes your will to even want the ball in your hands. 

But again, he does so much more than defend. He is always making the right play with the ball or cutting to the right spot. He kills you with his ball-hawk instincts, helping secure long offensive rebounds. He just wrapped up the playoffs with 50-40-95 shooting splits. In the Finals, he averaged just under 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists on 53/42/100 shooting splits. That's historic. 

Holiday scored the first six points for the Celtics on Monday, including this strip of Irving and finish in transition. 

Holiday feasted in the dunker's spot all series as Tatum drew the attention and Doncic and Irving were all too happy to fall asleep as he slipped in behind them. 

Oh, by the way, Holiday earned himself a little more cash with the $1.2 million bonus that was worked into his contract for winning the championship. In fact, Holiday checked off every incentive bonus available to him for a total of $2.8 million extra dough in what has truly been a dream season. 

Not a bad campaign for Mr. Holiday, who, in less than year, went from finding out he had been traded from the Bucks after waking up from a nap to winning the second championship of what has become a Hall of Fame career.