by Hayden Alfano
Boston Celtics fans in their late 20s — like myself — are an interesting group. Though we support the most storied franchise in National Basketball Association (NBA) history, our memories of the glory days of success are spotty, at best. It’s been more than 20 years since the team last won a championship (1986) or even made the NBA Finals (1987). We have memories of certain big moments — enhanced, no doubt, by the self-promoting highlight reels the NBA is so fond of — but by and large, the image we have of Celtics legends is conceptual and anecdotal, not empirical. We know what a brilliant player Larry Bird was, for instance, but we can’t break down his game the way we can Paul Pierce’s.
This historic NBA Finals matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers — the Celtics’ chief rivals — therefore takes on special meaning. It’s our opportunity to create our own memories, to find heroes, to look down on anyone wearing the Lakers' purple-and-gold and really mean it.
For these reasons, then, a couple of friends and I took a road trip to Boston for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. After pregame food and drinks — one table over from Celtics legend Gerald Henderson! — I entered the TD Banknorth Boston Garden Thursday night (June 5) expecting one of the most memorable evenings of my life. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
Things I’ll remember forever from that night:
- As I shuffled towards my seat in a mass of similarly green-and-white-clad Boston fans, the familiar but long-dormant chant of “Beat LA! Beat LA!” broke out. Instant chills up and down my spine.
- Early in the game, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett drove past Lakers' center Pau Gasol, leaving himself with a clear path to the basket. As he took his final step and exploded up at the rim, seemingly every Boston fan in attendance exploded, too, leaping out of our seats as he punctuated the move with a thunderous jam. I didn’t think the crowd could get louder. I was wrong.
- In the third quarter of a tight game, Celtics star Paul Pierce went down with an apparent knee injury. He lay on the ground for what seemed like several minutes, then was carried immediately into the tunnel that leads to the locker room. Without the benefit of replay in the arena, we in attendance didn’t know what was going on — just that it looked bleak. My worst fears seemed to be confirmed when I received a text message from a friend watching from home — “Not good — he’s in a wheelchair in the tunnel.” So when Pierce walked to the scorers’ table a few minutes later to check back into the game, the place went berserk, as much out of relief as elation. That he hit back-to-back three-pointers towards the end of the period was icing on the cake.
- Finally, with the Celtics up six and 1:30 left in the game, James Posey went up for the game-clinching three-pointer. He missed, the ball came off the rim softly, as though guided by fate, into the hands of Garnett. His ferocious putback dunk sealed the win and led to pandemonium in the stands — complete strangers hugging, trading high-fives, and screaming unintelligibly in each other’s faces.
The Celtics take on the Lakers in Game 2 of the Finals on ABC at 9 p.m. EDT on Sunday, June 8.
(To see highlights of Game 1 of the Celtics-Lakers Finals from the NBA, please check below.)
Los Angeles Lakers