It was in 2003 when I first started really caring about the Boston Celtics. I had always followed them, known who the players were, been a “fan”, but never rode the emotional roller coaster of a season with them. I loved Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker. I finished my first real season as a Celtics fan watching them get swept out of the playoffs by the dynasty-that-never-was NJ Nets.
With the draft day trades in 2007 that Danny Ainge made to bring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to Boston, I had new hope for a franchise that had just been screwed by the NBA lottery system, and seemed headed for another losing season.
It was in 2008 that I vividly remember Paul Pierce being carried off the floor, only to return and win the game. It was in 2008 where the Celtics came back from a 20-point deficit in game 4 of the NBA finals against the LA Lakers. It was in 2008 where I sat in my friend Max’s house and watched the Celtics destroy the Lakers by 39 points in game 6 to win the NBA finals days after finishing high school.
With their first NBA championship in 22 years, the Celtics graduated from historical franchise back to NBA relevancy. I loved that team, and those players all became a part of me.
The Big 3 came at an era of Boston sports unlike any other city has ever seen. The Red Sox had broken the Curse 4 years prior, and had won their 2nd world series in 2007, the Patriots had just finished an undefeated regular season (and a heartbreaking Super Bowl) and had won 3 of the previous 6 Super Bowls, and the new kings of Boston had converted a city that once was defined by their basketball team back in to believers and Celtics fans.
After 2 more NBA championship dreams were crushed by injuries (Garnett in ‘09, Perkins in ‘10) everybody declared that the Celtics’ window was shut. The following year in 2011, Miami followed the Big 3 model, and knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs. With little cap space, and not many free agents on the market to be had after one of the biggest off-seasons in NBA history, the Celtics decided to run it back with their core and Big 3.
In 2012 the Celtics came a once-in-a-lifetime Lebron James performance in game 6, and then a 4th quarter blown lead in game 7 from knocking out the superstar they had dominated in the past one more time. It wasn’t meant to be, Ray Allen left town, and subsequently broke up the big 3. With Rajon Rondo emerging as a star, Celtics Nation used all of its strength and optimism to force that window open a little longer.
With hopeful free agent signings in 2013 I was ready for a Celtics team that was on paper, much better than the previous year, and was dreaming of a Heat-Celtics playoffs series for the 3rd straight year. Unfortunately Rajon Rondo tore his ACL. It was at this point that Bill Simmons suggested they needed to trade Pierce, and get assets while they still could, as PP was still playing like an All-Star, and any post-Rondo run would be short-lived. The Celtics went on to play inspired basketball in the 2 weeks leading up to the trade deadline, and Danny Ainge stuck with his cobbled together team instead of opting to ship his stars to LA. With no real PG, no real Center, and a SF that was taller than the starting PF, the Celtics were an NBA anomaly.
The Celtics were bounced by the Knicks in the first round, Iman Shumpert made Paul Pierce look like a shell of himself from 3 months ago, and I finally had lost hope that this team was ever going to win another championship as constructed.
With the news that KG has waived his no-trade clause and the Celtics are sending PP, KG, and Terry for a bunch of garbage including Kim Kardashian’s Ex-husband, a player getting paid over $1m dollars per point he averaged last year, and draft picks, it’s time to look back on this era of Celtics basketball. It’s times like these where you think back on all of the mistakes and decisions that were made along the way. What happens if we pay Tony Allen? What if we never trade Perkins? And so many more that it hurts to even talk about.
This Celtics team moving forward is going to test a lot of people’s loyalty. Over the years I’ve grown up with the Celtics and have more of a connection to these players than just being a fan. I truly care about these guys. Once Doc left, I knew it was the beginning of the end, but in the back of my mind, the naive Celtics fan was still thinking “Ok, we can get a new coach, he’ll rejuvenate the players, Terry and Lee will play to their potential, Sully and Rondo will be back, we’ll limit Pierce’s minutes, KG will be ready to go, and maybe we get a real big man in the draft. Miami will be out of gas trying to defend a 3rd title. We can do this!”
That thought process is over with now. Maybe it’ll be a relief not having championship aspirations these next few years. I’m still hopeful that the Celtics can develop into a winning team again somehow, though we just traded any assets we really have left besides Rondo. I think this team now will need Jeff Green to develop into the superstar we have seen every 15 games, and Rondo to learn to consistently take over games, if he’s not shipped out next year. Maybe with some development, coaching, and help, we can return to the top of the NBA where the Boston Celtics belong.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett created a new generation of Celtics fans. The kids who had been told about the magical decades of Bill Russell and Larry Bird now know what the aura of Boston Celtics basketball is, what it means to bleed green, and what a true Celtic looks like. They gave this team and their fans everything they had over the past few years and even though it wasn’t enough, I still know I’ll cherish that time for the rest of my life. It truly is the end of an era.