You bleed for your team, follow them through thick and thin, monitor every free-agent signing, immerse yourself in Basketball Draft Day, purchase the jerseys and caps, plan your days around the games. . . and there’s a little rainbow waiting at the end. You can’t see it, but you know it’s there. It’s there. It has to be there. So you believe.
Of course there’s one catch: You may never get there. Every fan’s worst fear. All that energy over the years just getting displaced, no release, no satisfaction, nothing. Season after season, no championship. . . and then you die. I mean, isn’t that what this is all about? Isn’t that the nagging fear? That those little moral victories over the years won’t pay off in the end — that one moment when everything comes together, when your team keeps winning, when you keep getting the breaks and you just can’t lose?
And if none of this makes sense, well. . . it does to me. My favorite basketball team just won the NBA Finals, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers (my most hated team in the league).
The Boston Celtics have just won their 17th NBA championship. Check out the strange odds of tonight:
— It’s June 17
— John Havlicek is in attendance — he wore number 17 during his Boston days
— My Dad was 32 when the Celtics last won in ’86. He died 17 years later.
Troy Sparks Sr., Red Auerbach and Dennis Johnson are smiling from Heaven right now. (How many times have I said that in 2008?)
It’s been a joy. Watching these Boston Celtics throughout the whole season has. Last year at this time, I was writing on my Celtics blog (from Basketball World) about how awry the NBA Draft was going to go and lamenting my uncertainty of the Celtics’ future, while my two loyal Celtics fan readers continued to read. Now? I’m celebrating a very special championship, as it’s going back to where it’s visited the most — Boston, MA.
I always said the Celtics would be a huge failure if they didn’t win the championship. I wrote time and time again about how big of an Al Jefferson fan I was (now a T’Wolve). I wrote about how Ray Allen was too old to be legitimately effective (when the Celtics traded for him; fortuantely, I was wrong). I questioned Danny Ainge and the whole organization’s rote.
But they proved me wrong. I watched 95% of the games last season and the same amount this regular season. Most of them through the internet by downloading archived games. I studied everything they did that was effective. I wrote about it, I inquired about it, I analyzed it to its thorough fullest.
I have to hand some props over Doc Rivers — he’s outcoached Phil “Zenhead” Jackson this whole series. While Rivers still made many, many questionable moves throughout this series (not giving Kevin Garnett sufficient shots in the second half of game one; not playing Leon Powe enough in game five), his head has been in tact while Jackson intermittently drank Jack and Coke while on the sidelines during these games. The Lakers’ adjustments were neglected, and the Celtics took advantage of that. But give the popcorn and soda to Tom Thibodeau, the guy that was instrumental behind the scenes for the Celtics this past season.
Paul Pierce deserves the most respect of any current Celtic (with all-due respect to Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, of course). He was stabbed 11 times in October 2000, a couple of weeks later he played the first exhibiton game and was the only Celtic to play all 82 games that year. In 2002, he was slammed onto the court by Amare Stoudemire. He had to have dental procedures taken a day later to have his teeth brought back into place. A couple of days later, he stated the very next game and hit the game winner against Portland. He’s had ups-and-downs, and so has the Celtics — consider this a trinity. Paul Pierce is my second favorite player in the league (Tim Duncan being the first), but I could easily make a case for him being the first. His work ethic, determination and perseverance came alive. And now he’s a champion. Congratulations, Paul, you are indeed The Truth.
Kevin Garnett has been my second favorite power forward in the league for years and years now. He’s always befuddled me with a lot of his gametime decisions, but he worked his ass off this year, and was the key to the puzzle in the regular season that made this team the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. He didn’t play all too well throughout the playoffs, but he played one hell of a game in the championship game tonight. For a guy that’s a future hall of famer, it’s only fitting that he’s winning a championship in a year where he finished in the top 5 of MVP voting.
Ray Allen always gave me psychological problems when he played for the Seattle Supersonics. It seemed like every time he and the Sonics played the Spurs, he would quarrel with Bruce Bowen, then whine about it after the game. Sure, he’s a guy of justice, but he’s also one hell of a basketball player. I doubted him before the season and he proved me wrong. He looked like a old geezer in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but came alive in the Eastern Conference Championship against the Pistons, and turned on the ‘shoot button’ in the Finals. Now he’s a champion, along with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Rajon Rondo, a second year player out of the University of Kentucky, was the starter for the 24-wins-to-66-wins Celtics this year. Many people said he wouldn’t be able to lead the team because of his youth. I negated those comments and defended Rondo. He has shooting woes, but he runs the floor of the Celtics offense with precision, and plays some of the best rotational defense I’ve seen in a while. His peek-a-boo (as Marc Jackson calls it) stealing is preeminent to other ‘peek-a-boo stealers’ (if there was such a thing). To win the NBA title, as a starter, as a point guard, as a 22-year-old second year player, that’s amazing.
Additionally, the entire Celtics bench was doubted the whole season. Guys like James Posey and Eddie House were hotshot role players who came over during the off-season to be apart of a system that was used to spread the court. They hit 3’s all season long. Key 3’s, too. P.J. Brown was brought over to provide a tough body in the paint. And that tough body was what he did inflict his will upon to teams in the post season. Tough rebounds, a preemptive skill to clog the paint, and resiliency to not be flustered.
This Celtics team was full of veterans.
And those veterans are the 2008 NBA champions.
It’s going to take me a week or two to take this all in. I haven’t truly felt like this since the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 2006. I’m in euphoria.
The Boston Celtics are the NBA champions.