Emotions were running high from the get go, starting with scattered applause as Brooklyn's players took the court:
Garnett, who spent six seasons in Boston, then received a vociferous welcome when the starting lineups were announced, facing a sea of flashing lights as he ran onto the floor:
Later, the Celtics had a video tribute for KG, during which he received a standing ovation captured by Celtics voice Sean Grande:
Anything, as it turns out, was possible. Video tribute to KG here at the Garden. pic.twitter.com/oXLIyEwVxx— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) January 27, 2014
Afterward, the cameras panned upward, per SB Nation's Paul Flannery:
At the end of the KG tribute, the camera panned up to the two empty spaces on the retired jersey banner.— Paul Flannery (@Pflanns) January 27, 2014
That such an implication can be made knowing Garnett spent less than half his career with the Celtics shows how much of an impact he had on the fans and the organization during his extended stay.
Pierce's tribute was even more powerful.
The Truth spent all 15 of his previous seasons in Boston, and his video generated some chilling responses.
Or, as Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski put it, some loud responses:
Fewer and fewer places in sports that you'll see and hear what Boston fans and Paul Pierce shared in a long, loud ovation at the Garden now.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 27, 2014
"Loud" doesn't even do it justice. The arena looked like it was shaking, overcome with nostalgia and respect.
After listening to more of the crowd's reactions from Newsday's Rod Boone, "deafening" is the more appropriate term:
Once the video concluded, Pierce acknowledged his former hometown crowd, much to their delight:
Paul Pierce acknowledges the crowd after his tribute video runs between the first and second quarters: pic.twitter.com/wbMuDGsUd6— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 27, 2014
It was one of the most classy and emotional returns you'll ever see, and as Bleacher Report's Ethan Norof points out, it was perfectly handled by the Celtics:
The @celtics tribute to Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce was nothing short of phenomenal.— Ethan Norof (@Mr_Norof) January 27, 2014
And special it was.