What the Boston Celtics Mean to Me


Being born and raised in Connecticut is tricky for a sports fan. We’ve got nothing. I was born in ’93, so I was only 4 when the Whalers packed their bags for North Carolina. I missed the only chance I’ll probably ever have to root for a true hometown professional sports franchise.

Being born and raised in Fairfield County when your dad lived in Massachusetts is even trickier for a sports fan. For those of you who don’t know, Fairfield County is a hop, skip, and a jump from The Big Apple. Now, the thing is, my dad was always a Red Sox fan. He never really cared much for other sports, so when I was old enough to actually become invested in sports, I had a lot of choices.

I actually only got into hockey a few years ago during the most recent NBA lockout. I needed something to satisfy my craving for pro sports, and once-a-week NFL action just wasn’t enough. I needed my fix, and I needed it badly. And there were the Bruins, able to keep me from going through withdrawl and getting the shakes. For the life of me, I can’t recall how or when my avid passion for the Patriots came about. But I can remember very clearly how and when my near-obsession (fine, let’s just call it a full obsession) for the Boston Celtics began. It’s a long and convoluted story.

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See, basketball was the first sport I played that I truly enjoyed. Soccer was too much running and in 3rd/4th grade, I could not handle it. So I called it quits. Yes, basketball is a lot of running as well, but on a more moderately-sized playing surface. Now, our coaches understood that we were just in 5th grade and this was just rec ball, so there really weren’t any position players. We all took the ball down the court. We all posted up, as best as we could. We all took ill-advised 3’s.

And during my first endeavors onto the hardwood, there was more hoops action happening behind the scenes. I can’t remember what brand of cereal it was, but one morning, I opened a box of cereal to find a prize inside. This was no ordinary prize. It wasn’t your cheap movie promo toy. No, this was something bigger. Growing up without a console, the CD-ROM inside that box was my NBA 2K. This was basketball stripped down to it’s bare bones, where your shooting guard is wheelchair-bound, the best outside shooter in the game is a nerd with a pocket protecter, and the mere sound of the ice cream truck can send the opposing team into a daze. This was all narrated by Sunny Day and Barry Dejay. Yes, I’m talking about the original Backyard Basketball.  I played it non-stop for weeks, drafting the perfect team and always coming up short during the championship round. And as soon as one season ended, I would draft essentially the same team to take another stab at glory.

I loved that game and it’s wacky power-ups, cheesy color commentary, and ridiculous team names. I was always the Atomic Melons. It was simple, fun basketball that anyone, even a novice like myself, could understand. But what I loved the most was one player in particular. He was taller than all the other kids, was bald, played some of the best defense in the game, and was the only NBA representation in the game. He looked like this:

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Why 5th grade me was so infatuated with little Kevin Garnett, some seemingly random guy from the NBA I had never heard of before, I will never know. But what I do know is that he is the reason I love the Boston Celtics.

Let’s get back to the real world. As middle school progressed, so did our skill. Our strengths and weaknesses became more apparant, mostly around 7th grade. And although this was still just rec ball, we were given positions. I never had great handles or a silky-smooth stroke, but I could block, rebound, and shoot well from mid-to-short range. So in rec ball from 7th-12th grade (I didn’t make my high school’s basketball team), I was- and to this day still am, when I play intramurals at school- a power forward.

Every so often, I would put that cherised disc into my computer and take yet another rendition of my team deep into the postseason. It was around 7th grade that I realized I had a lot in common with KG. We both played good defense and very rarely shot from beyond the arc. So I did a little research and learned that KG himself was a power foward!

At that point, I started to follow KG more closely. So when he came to Boston, I saw this an the perfect opportunity to pledge my allegiance to an NBA team. So it wasn’t until the Big Three played their first season together that I became a Celtics fan. Now everyone will start calling me a bandwagon fan, I know. But let’s remember that the 2007-2008 Celtics just came off a disastrous 24-58 season, so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. ’07-’08 could be another bust for all I knew. But as we all know, it was far from that.

After winning the NBA Finals in 2008, the Big Three remained intact until 2012, when everything started to go downhill. The Celtics were never as great as they were during their championship run, but they were good enough to almost always make the playoffs. The post-Big Three roster was never great, but they were good enough to look competent on the court. They were fun to watch.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

And that’s what keeps me so invested in the Celtics to this day. Whenever I watch the Celtics of recent years, I get nostalgic. I’ll always think of playing backyard basketball after school, after practice, all day on the weekends. And just like the post-2008 NBA Champions, my virtual team was never good enough to win it all. And just like most of the Brad Stevens Boston Celtics, I was never a great player, but I was good enough to contribute to my rec and intramural teams, and have fun playing. We would always make the playoffs, but we never made it far. Again, shades of the backyard basketball days.

No matter how much better or worse the Celtics become in the future, they will always be a link to my childhood, to these beloved memories. And even though KG is no longer a Celtic, I will always think of him when I watch them. A tall, lanky fellow who just loves playing the game. When I made the club volleyball team at college, I chose number 5 because my passion for volleyball is comprable to KG’s passion for basketball. And I too am a tall, lanky fellow who just loves playing the game.

Kevin Garnett has been, and always will be, a very important part of my childhood. And that’s what the Boston Celtics mean to me: my childhood. I’ll always look back to short little Russell, just trying to have a good time.

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