First of all, let's get this straight. People hate the Boston Celtics. Really hate them.
And not just Los Angeles Lakers fans, either.
A random search through the many fan sites that litter the Internet and you will find ample evidence of this hatred. Depending upon which site you visit, you will see them take the prize as seventh, eighth or more charitably 17th most hated franchise in all of sports.
Although this year the Miami Heat have given the Celtics some competition in this regard, they have a lot of catching up to do. Hoops fans have been hating on the Celtics for over 50 years now, and it is likely to continue until well past the time when LeBron James is making his acceptance speech at Springfield, Massachusetts.
So, let's take it as given that the Celtics are hated. Sure, other teams are also hated—most notably the Los Angeles Lakers—but NBA fans seem to hold a special place in their heart for hating the Celtics. So, why this great hatred? There are a couple of likely reasons:
This is the reason all Celtics fans instinctively point to."Why wouldn't other fans hate us? They wish they were us!" Even from an objective standpoint there is, of course, much to be jealous of when one looks at the Celtics' list of accomplishments. A league best 17 championships. MVPs and Hall of Famers by the dozen. An unparalleled history of success—the envy of any sport franchise.
But, is this enough? Is this simply a case of sour grapes? Celtics detractors point to other reasons for their hatred of the team, including:
For many hoops fans, their main sticking point with the Celtics are their fans. Few fan bases are more knowledgeable, engaged and supportive than Celtics fans. Great if you are with them. Terrible if you are against them. Celtics fans' rabid fervour, blatant homer ism and perceived arrogance have labelled them as the league's worst by many long time fans.
Although the debate continues as to whether the Celtics organization of the past was an inherently racist institution, it is true that the city of Boston has long had a negative reputation in this regard.
Celtics legends such as Robert Parish and Bill Russell have spoken openly about the racism they endured whilst living in Boston, even whilst being lionised for their feats on the court. Such tales can't help but make an impact on hoops fan who, like Bostonians themselves, question how much Boston has changed to rid itself of its racist past.
This is an argument raised more recently than in previous decades. Whilst the Celtics have not yet reached Detroit Bad Boy levels of infamy, they are getting a reputation as a team that plays rough and dirty.
With current Celtics players like Kevin Garnett being voted the most hated player in the league, it is only natural that this influences how fans of the game feel about the Celtics as a whole. One need not look very far for a roll call of Garnett's dirty deeds and bad behaviour. Garnett, and to a lesser degree the rest of the Celtics, is willing to do whatever it takes to win. And that "whatever" is not always pretty.
It is one thing to win. It is another thing to expect to win. It is an altogether different thing to tell everybody that you expect to win. This is the issue that confronts the current Celtics team. Garnett and others has gone on record saying that the Celtics are the best team, often repeating his assertion that the Celtics starting five had never been defeated in a seven game series when healthy.
Obviously, such claims are no longer relevant, but such confidence can easily be mistaken for arrogance. Add in the trash talking Paul Pierce and the cool confidence of Rajon Rondo, and you have a team that some say is asking to be hated.
So, which of these factors is it? What is the key to the mystery of Celtics hatred? As is often the case with matters of this kind, it is probably a little of each element.
What do you think? How much is jealousy and how much is based upon genuine cause for complaint?