No, not John Havlicek. The number 17 now has an entirely new meaning in the proud, storied history of the Boston Celtics.
On June 17, 2008, the Celtics won their 17th championship. This, on the birthday of the late Grady Rivers, whom son Doc had to bury back in November. This, after 22 years of no championships — and precious little good fortune — for the Green Machine. This, on the heels of a magical season in which Danny Ainge — a scrappy and championship Celtic during his own playing career — built a juggernaut of a team after dodging slings and arrows the previous four seasons.
This, my friends, was an absolute clinic. I’d probably have to go back to the third quarter of Game 5 against the Hawks in 1986 when the Celtics went on a 36-6 run to find a time when the team put on as thorough and as breathtaking a display of perfect basketball as they did tonight. You can not play a better game then the Celtics did tonight.
You look at this game, and you wonder what it would have been like for Johnny Most to call, or Red Auerbach to watch, or Dennis Johnson. This was vintage Celtics.
It was nice to see them do it at home in front of a joyous TD Banknorth Garden crowd. (Thanks to good friend Louise Cornetta for the excellent photo live from the scene).
This was the first time the classy Doc Rivers tasted championship champagne — not to mention championship Gatorade. It was also the first time for Kevin Garnett, who changed everything when he arrived in July. And Paul Pierce, who played on a great Kansas team in college that couldn’t get it done, and stuck through some very hard times with the Celtics where he was on the brink of losing hope but he managed to stay the course. And Ray Allen, as sweet a pure shooter as any in Celtics history.
I must say, it was very interesting for me to take in this championship in the city of Philadelphia, a sports-crazed region that has not seen any of their teams win it since Moses Malone and Dr. J put the Sixers on their back way back in 1983. Imagine that? A complete quarter century without any championships. You can sort of feel the bitterness of the fans in Philly, who are every bit as passionate as Boston fans. For instance, when we were waiting to get into the clubhouse tonight, one of the Red Sox beat writers asked the security man if he could turn his TV on to the Celtics game while we were waiting. The security guy said, “I could, but I won’t.” Typical. Oh well.
It is simply amazing that the city of Boston has won no fewer than six championships since that night of February 3, 2002, when Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yarder boomed through the uprights, forever changing the atmosphere in a region that had so many bitter disappointments. Boston, quite simply, is the new winner-ville in sports.
You look at this Celtics roster and nearly every guy made a key contribution along the way.
Paul Pierce. All he did was take his game up about nine notches in the playoffs. He wouldn’t let them lose Game 7 against Cleveland. He wouldn’t let them lose Game 6 in Detroit or Game 4 in LA. And he didn’t let his knee injury in Game 1 keep him from taking over in crunch time. It’s so deserving for Pierce to be the MVP. Number 34 will hang proudly in the rafters some day. You can take that to the bank.
Kevin Garnett. All KG did was change the entire culture of the franchise. He did it with attitude and he did it with defense. I was a little rough on him after his nightmare in Game 5, but understand this about KG. The only reason he doesn’t come through sometimes is because he wants it so darned bad that he can’t channel it. There are worse crimes. And how touching was that moment where Kevin Garnett embraced BIll Russell after the game and said, “I got my own, I got my own.” Remember, Russell said if Garnett gave it his all but never won it all, he would share one of his rings with him. That’s no longer necessary.
Ray Allen. He felt like a fish out of water at times this season, deferring to a pair of potential Hall of Famers and sometimes losing his way. It seemed Ray had completely lost it in the first two rounds of the playoffs, only to find it in time to play his best basketball of the year in the final two rounds. Good stuff. His finishing drive in Game 4 will forever live in the annals of Celtics history.
Rajon Rondo. This was the big question mark when the season started. Could they win a championship with young Rondo at the point? There were plenty of highs and lows along the way, but Rondo finished with a spectacular clincher. And don’t forget that Kevin McHale asked for Rondo in the Garnett swap and Ainge flat-out refused.
Kendrick Perkins. He will never be Robert Parish, Dave Cowens or Bill Russell but he did all the dirty work down low. All in all, a great success story for a second round pick of Danny Ainge’s back in 2003.
James Posey. I loved this signing from the day it was made. There are players and there are winners. This guy is a flat-out winner. How many big three’s did he stick in the playoffs? Too many to remember. Posey was in inspiration to this team on the floor and in the locker room.
Eddie House. Perhaps the only real mistake Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers made all year was losing trust in House and going after Sam Cassell. In the end, House proved his worth. Yet another player who came up HUGE in the historic Game 4 comeback.
P.J. Brown. The guy was retired at the All-Star break. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen helped talk him into a comeback and Danny reeled him in. He played second star to Pierce in Game 7 against the Cavs. He was the tough veteran bench player this team needed down low.
Leon Powe. Game 2 of the Finals. Enuf said for this rags to riches story.
Glenn “Big Baby” Davis. Let’s not forget some of the big nights this guy had during the regular season. A steal where they got him in the draft. It was good to see him re-appear in the clincher. He will be heard from in the coming years.
So sit back and relish this moment and hope you don’t have to wait another 22 years to see another one. Parade on Thursday at 11 a.m.!!!!