I don’t remember Magic’s sky hook. I was probably watching Sesame Street when Bird stole the ball. And, I definitely would’ve rather been fed than seen McHale clothesline Rambis.
I’m a 25-year-old Celtics fan. There are many others like me. You'll have to forgive us, but this is quite a new experience.
For us, Celtic Pride is mythic although we do feel it—strongly in fact. It’s odd, really. We’ve heard the stories; the gripping first person narratives of triumph and glory, of heart and soul. We’ve seen the legends in the flesh, maybe even had the chance to pick their brains in a restaurant, or listen to them give a speech at the conclusion of basketball camp.
We’ve watched the games—on ESPN Classic, on YouTube, on box set—and seen ourselves how it all went down way back when.
We know who won, who scored, who coached, who called it, what the untold side stories were, what the stakes were, where the celebrations took place, when the foundation was laid, how the legacy was built, how it was sustained and why everyone who’s not us will forever be green—with envy, that is.
Because of the tradition, the pride, we have three dimensions and 360 degrees of Celtics history.
But it’s not real. It’s the greatest house of cards ever conceived. The most thoroughly and flawlessly constructed fairy tale.
Might as well call it the basketball Matrix because we’ve been plugged into it our entire lives: An alternate hoops universe strictly for our minds. It’s there to keep us proud, to prevent us from associating the Celtics during our youth with the Celtics.
And through the passion and dedication of those around us, we have been made to believe that it is reality.
But it is not.
Reality for us is Reggie Lewis breaking our heart after discovering too late that his own was too weak. Reality for us is Dino Radja and Eric Montross as “the future.” Reality for us is M.L. Carr and 15 wins. Reality for us is Rick Pitino, the Kentucky Wildcats and a certain “door.” Reality for us is not-Tim Duncan.
Reality for us is 11 stab wounds.
So here we stand today, in the midst of a new reality. One that needs not be defined and substantiated by the past, only enhanced by it.
Today, that horrible September night seven and half years ago—when we almost lost Paul Pierce—seems long ago. And while it was so nearly the end, only in hindsight can we now see that it was in fact just the beginning.
We went from wondering if the first superstar to don the green since Reggie would ever play ball again to watching him become the only Celtic to start all 82 games in the 2001-02 season. We were awestruck when he rained 46 points on Allen Iverson and the 76ers in the first deciding playoff game of his career.
And we became believers when he single-handedly led the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history against the Nets in Game Three of the 2002 Eastern Conference finals.
The Celtics bowed out at home in Game Six that year, the deepest they had advanced in the playoffs since 1988. I was tucked away in the upper deck of the Fleet Center (”The Jungle”) that day, but I remember seeing perfectly the smile that beamed on Paul’s face when we stood as one for him after the final buzzer. I recall how the past year flashed before my eyes.
All of it had come so close to never happening.
We could all feel how he was thinking the same thing. I’m pretty sure it was that moment when 1) Paul Pierce realized he’d never wear another uniform again, and 2) we all realized that one day his number would be hoisted up into those rafters—the Celtic pantheon—rightfully alongside all the great ones.
That was the day the journey really began. We just didn’t know at the time.
I did know it was the proudest moment I’d ever had as a Celtics fan because the pride I felt was 100 per cent genuine and solely my own. It was also the most unique moment I’d ever had as a sports fan because it had nothing to do with winning or losing.
Seven-plus years later, it finally does. It would have never been possible without Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, but their addition and the subsequent return of the Celtics has at last given three dimensions and 360 degrees to what we now know officially began in 2002: the Paul Pierce-era of the Boston Celtics.
Now, together, they are four wins from putting the finishing touch on that era and giving a new generation of fans their own stories to pass on.
Four wins from sealing two legacies that needed the Celtics as desperately as the Celtics needed them. Four wins against the only team with which we have unsettled business.
Four wins from a restoration. The time has come for pride.