There was a time when the NBA Playoffs were synonymous with the Boston Celtics. Boston has been to the NBA Finals 19 times, and won the Championship in 16 of those trips. The franchise hung all of its famed banners in the span of 30 years.
The Boston Celtics averaged a title more often than every other year during these three decades! There has never been a more dominant era for any team in an American professional sport.
It's been three seasons since the Celtics even fielded a team good enough to make it into the playoffs. The Celtics Dynasty of the late-50's through the 60's is just a memory now. During this span, the Celtics won 8 Championships in a row and missed the NBA Finals just once in thirteen seasons. The team won 11 of those 12 titles. But this will not help the Boston Celtics now... The past is the past.
A second dynasty was made when the Celtics, behind the "Big Three" and a Hall-of-Fame starting lineup (barring Dennis Johnson who was nominated but not inducted earlier this year), returned to dominance and transformed the NBA into a two-team power struggle against the Los Angeles Lakers. The 1980's was a shared era of dominance between professional basketball's two most successful franchises. This too, has passed.
Almost 22 years has passed, to be more specific, since the Celtics last raised a green and white banner into the rafters which declared that for one season of basketball... they were the best. It was the 16th time a Boston Celtics team had done this.
In other arenas you can spot banners for division and conference championships... not in Boston. There's simply not enough room. The space is reserved for the third Celtics dynasty. Although it's still hours before tip-off of Game 1 in the first round match-up against the Atlanta Hawks as I write this, I can't help but feel as if this is the start of something big.
The way the ball is distributed unselfishly, the commitment to defense, the manner in which the Celtics have used "Ubuntu" as a rallying call for unity, and the cocky swagger in the gaits of men 1-12 as they step onto the court every game assures me of one thing: the Celtics are here... and they're not going anywhere anytime soon.
Once again, proper order has been restored to this historic franchise and the NBA Playoffs means Boston Celtics basketball once again.
No longer will fans spend April and May debating the lottery and the NBA draft. They won't have to spend their time watching college hoops highlights like a scout unsuccessfully trying to convince their friends, "If the Celtics could just draft [insert 19 year old kid's name here] we'd be in great shape."
Best of all, it's April and Celtics fans don't have to start sentences with, "Next year..."
All is right in Boston and the NBA. Later today the Celtics will have their first playoff game in three long years and the past will be the past.
The focus now? Banner #17
Welcome back to the NBA Playoffs, Boston!