The Final Curtain Call?
The last time the big three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish won an NBA championship was June of 1986. At the time, I was beginning a 9 month inhabitance in my mother’s stomach, not able to hear or take in any of the sights and sounds. This was a team that captured this city like no other group of basketball players ever has.
The allure of Larry Bird was so strong that even today you can’t go a day in Boston without seeing his picture on a t shirt or hearing his name come up in any sports relate conversation. He hasn’t played an NBA basketball game in this city in 21 years. He hasn’t won a title here in 24 years. Hell he hasn’t even lived in this city since Ronald Reagan was president. It doesn’t matter. Since his departure the Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots and Revolution have won a combined 8 professional sports championships. But you ask anyone to sum up sports in Boston over the last 100 years and you ask them for one name…….the Hick from French Lick is always on the tip of peoples tongues.
I remember when I was in high school walking into a miscellaneous Chinese restaurant on the corner of a quiet neighborhood in Newton, Massachusetts. I was picking up a takeout order for my uncle and as I waited at the front one photo vividly stood out to me. Amidst the norm of aquariums, restaurant reviews, and building permits was a small photo of Larry Bird, probably taken in the early 80’s shaking hands with the owner of the establishment. Intrigued by why this was the only photo of its kind on the wall I asked one of the men working up front about its origins and importance. Sadly, the man did not speak an ounce of English, but he passed me on to a girl who couldn’t have been more than 15 years old. Psyched to be speaking to someone who could interact with me I peppered the girls with questions. Why is Larry Bird the only picture on this wall? Surely many celebrities have visited the restaurant located in this upscale town in the past. Why not add their pictures to the wall. Do you even know who that is in the picture??
Her answer was short and sweet “Because Larry Bird is the best player in all of Boston. Nobody else seemed important.”
This girl wasn’t even born until almost 10 years after Bird played his last game as a Celtic……….
I tell these stories on the doorstep of one of the biggest games in the history of Celtics basketball, and certainly in the lifetimes of my generation not to add any unnecessary hyperbole or drama to tonight’s game, (That would be like trying to add purified Bolivian Cocaine to Red Bull & Vodka) but I do it to put things into perspective as best I can about how truly special the culture of sports is in this city and how special basketball has once again become. Hell, when typing this article, I misspelled Kevin McHale’s name, and my spell check recognized him and corrected the error for me!
This time 3 and half years ago I couldn’t give away my Celtics season tickets. In the early years of college I can actually recall paying friends JUST TO GO WITH ME to the game, promising we would be out of the garden by the end of the 3rd quarter win or lose. The notion that me having Celtics tickets would actually impress woman in 2007 would be like Antoine Walker losing the 109 million dollars he made while playing in the NBA and filing for bankruptcy. Actually, wait a second, that doesn’t sound right…… The odds of seeing the word “Celtics” in a facebook status update were comparable to the odds of George W. Bush becoming a professional speech coach.
But then, seemingly overnight, we became relevant. Whether you want to single out Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, the development of Rajon Rondo into a perennial stud, or perhaps more fittingly Danny Ainge for putting it together, Doc Rivers for keeping it together, and Tom Thibodeau for making it all work, it is clear that this city has once again been captured by the sport of basketball.
Relish it. Enjoy it. Most importantly, be thankful for the product you see out there on the court tonight at 9pmEST in the Hollywood Hills.
Regardless of the outcome, this will be the last time we see The Dream Team of The Big FOUR, and Rivers and Thibodeau wearing the same colors so to speak. Those holding on to nostalgia, yours truly included, will reason that KG’s knee will be another year stronger, Rondo will start making shots and become the best shooting point guard in the NBA, the big 3 will make it through another 82 game season healthy although their collective age is over 100, and Ray Allen surely wont take a 4 year $32 million dollar deal elsewhere when the Celtics have 3 years and $18 million waiting for him July 1st. If you believe the above musings then I’m sure you also wouldn’t have any qualms about drinking tap water from Mexico right now.
The fact of the matter is our city has been transformed for the better, and a whole new generation of Celtics fans has been formed. Do not interpret this column as a 2011 and beyond obituary for The Boston Celtics, but more of a eulogy. I for one couldn’t be happier and more proud of what this team has accomplished. They’ve made the concept of a team cool again, and captured millions of fans 35 and under who don’t know just 3 short years ago never held the word success synanymous with basketball.
If I was a betting man (pause for laughter) thousands could have been made on this team as 4 and 5 to 1 odds were routinely put on them in each series throughout this postseason.
It’s been a magical run for the Messrs. Pierce, Allen, Garnett and Rondo, and I personally can’t think of any more fitting ending than a champagne bath. Either way, it is most certainly a night for popping bottles.
David Button is a regular contributor to the token sports blog and the founder of the Thunderdome Column. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org