June 17, 2008.
Funny how much of a difference a year can make.
Let’s rewind. One year ago at this time, Celtic fans—including myself—were hoping for either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant to walk through the doors of the TD Banknorth Garden as the newest member of the Boston Celtics.
But once the NBA draft lottery came and passed with the Celtics ending up with the fifth-overall pick, reality set in—and it became apparent to the Boston faithfuls that it was going to be another long season for the Celtics.
Draft day came, and Celtic fans gathered around their television sets hoping, praying, that maybe by some miraculous chance that either Durant or Oden would fall into our laps at the five-spot, much of the same way that Paul Pierce fell to Boston with the tenth pick in the 1998 draft.
But instead, Danny Ainge and the Celtics decided to do some shopping with pick, seeing if they could make a trade to help benefit the team. That trade came in the form of Ray Allen, when Boston traded Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, and the rights to the fifth-overall pick, which ended up being Georgetown small forward Jeff Green.
I can’t speak for others, but as a Celtic fan, I wasn’t very fond of that trade. I felt that it hurt more than it helped at the time. Instead of drafting a young player to help out the team, the Celtics had traded for a 32-year-old Ray Allen, whose best days may have been behind him. And it still looked like it was going to be another long season in Boston.
But then came the most exciting day in recent history for the Boston Celtics. July 31, 2007. Kevin Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics in a huge seven-for-one deal that sent Garnett to Boston for Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, a 2009 first-round draft pick, and a return of Minnesota's conditional first-round draft pick previously obtained in the Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak trade.
And that Ray Allen trade that I had criticized a month earlier ended up being the big factor in bringing Garnett to the Celtics. Garnett had previously denied a trade to Boston, saying that he didn’t want to play in a big-market city, nor did he want to go to a Celtic franchise that had been struggling, having not won a title in 22 years.
But once Allen was sent to Boston, Garnett became a lot more optimistic about the trade thinking that there could really be something special between the “Big Three” of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and himself. And it began to look like this might be the year for the Celtics to get that elusive 17th banner up in the rafters.
Fast forward to June 17, 2008.
This time, Celtic fans weren’t hoping for the number-one or two pick in the draft. All they were thinking about was that night.
June 17 was Game Six of the 2008 NBA Finals. The series was coming back to Boston after three games in Los Angeles, with the Celtics leading the series three games to two. And all I was thinking was, "How can I go to this game tonight?"
I woke up that morning and went on the computer to look for any way to find tickets to the game, as this was the first time in my life that one of my favorite teams had a chance to win a championship close enough to me in location that I could attend.
First I went to Celtics.com, hoping that maybe there would be some tickets that went on sale at the last minute...nothing. So I went to stub hub.com, a place where I don’t venture to very often because tickets are always priced way above face value. But, desperate times call for desperate measures, and as sports fan I desperately needed to go to this game.
And lo and behold I come across these two tickets—section 312, row 13, seats 7 and 8, about four rows from the back wall in the Garden, $530.00 dollars a piece after tax, with a face value of $55.00 dollars.
Those were going to be my tickets. I sent a text messaged to my friend Mike stating, “I found two tickets to the game tonight, $500.00 dollars a piece, we going?” He replied simply with, “I’m down… you?” And it was decided. We met up to talk about it some more, and then started to make this fantasy a reality.
We went to the bank to get the money situation taken care of, and while standing in line getting ready to withdraw all that money for two tickets, we stopped, looked at each other, and said, “They better win this f****** game.”
It was the first time in my life where the saying "big risk, bigger reward" really meant something to me. A Celtic loss would’ve meant the biggest waste of money in my life, but a Celtic win meant a story and moment to hold onto forever.
We got the money and rushed back to the house. We ordered the tickets and then reality set in. It was kind of like, “Wow! I can’t believe we’re actually going to this game tonight.” Both of us had permanent smiles on our faces for the rest of the day, like we were five years old again and it was Christmas morning.
As soon as we entered the city of Boston, you could tell that it was going to be a special night. Everywhere you looked people were dressed in green to show their Celtic pride, and chants of “Beat L.A.!” could be heard throughout the streets.
The closer that we got to the stadium, the more intense the Celtic fans got. It was an atmosphere like nothing I had ever experienced before, as just a sea of people wearing green and white were all gathering at the same spot with the hopes of the one common goal—Banner No. 17.
And we hadn’t even stepped foot inside the building yet.
Entering the arena, you would’ve thought that the Celtics had already won the game. People screaming and chanting in hopes of seeing the Larry O’Brien trophy by the end of the night. We sat down in our seats way up in the nose bleeds, and agreed that there wasn’t any other place in the world we would rather be than section 312 of the Garden. We were with fans like us in the balcony. The common-folk. Die-hard Boston Celtic fans who probably paid a ridiculous amount of money just so that they could have the chance to see their team play for a championship
Player introductions sent chills through my spine in anticipation for the game to get underway—and when it started, it started with the loudest “Beat L.A.!” chant I had ever heard in my life. That is, until the fourth quarter began.
As most know, the Celtics dominated Game Six with a 131-92 win over the Lakers, which couldn’t have made any Celtic fan happier—unless you were there. What made this win so sweet was the atmosphere in which it happened.
With about seven and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter something happened that made the crowd stand up and cheer. I then noticed that with less than a minute left in the game, I was still standing, and so was everyone else. The whole place knew that this was really going to happen—the 22-year drought was coming to an end, and we were about to be world champions.
The final horn sounded, the confetti cannons shot off, and the roof damn near blew off the top of the Garden. Everyone went nuts—fans, players, coaches, everyone. People started lighting up victory cigars in memory of the late Celtic coach Red Auerbach to celebrate as the Celtics were presented with the NBA Championship trophy, and Paul Pierce was named the Finals MVP.
The celebration then made its way out to the streets of Boston, where riot police lined the road to try to keep things in order and under control. But there was nothing to be worried about—the city of Boston was far too happy to destroy anything in a violent manner, and just wanted to celebrate the perfect ending to a season that had so many expectations. Mike and I walked down the street each holding a hand up in the air, just because everyone that you walked by would high-five it and say something like “Go Celtics!”
We stayed in the crowd of people for about an hour before we decided to start heading home. I had never been on such an emotional high in all my life, and it lasted for about the next two weeks. The atmosphere and excitement that surrounded that day is something that will stick with me forever and gave me a story that I’ll be able to tell to my children and grandchildren some day.
So thank you to the Celtics and the city of Boston for giving me a memory that will last a lifetime, and hopefully I’ll be able to do the same thing again one day because…
Anything is possible!!!