Seeing this mixtape, these highlights from the glorious Boston Celtics history, I wonder how history will look at the current Celtics squad.
I know it’s still too early to pigeonhole the Garnett Era’s place in Celtics history, but I still wonder. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Celtics don’t win a championship this year. Let’s say they fade, however valiantly, into basketball oblivion, as Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen slowly become less functional. If that’s the case, how would Celtics history look at this team, this team that won only one championship for a franchise that has somehow been able to win multiple titles in each championship era?
My thoughts are this, but feel free to disagree: no matter how many rings this Celtics Era ends with, its place in history is secure. These Celtics didn’t just win a title, like many other Celtics teams have. They restored a once-proud franchise to greatness, just when the Celtics seemed at a low that could not be salvaged. More than that, this team restored Celtic Pride. It means something to be a Celtic now. When Shaq says he came to Boston because he knew nobody on the team was out for personal glory, that wasn’t just lip service. It was real.
These Celtics don’t give a rat’s ass about statistics, and they don’t give a rat’s ass about individual awards. They care about one thing, and that’s the one thing that has marked this Celtics franchise in the best of times: winning. As the Miami Heat struggle to jel as a team, it only highlights the Celtics’ seamless transformation into ruthless winners. The C’s could have had the same problems as Miami. They could have lacked synergy, lacked the ability to make each other better. But they didn’t.
Rather than quarrel about roles, the Celtics sacrificed portions of their game for the good of the team. Ray Allen stopped handling the ball as much. Kevin Garnett took fewer shots, and focused even more of his maniacal effort on defense. Paul Pierce improved his efficiency and limited his isolation plays, and became a defender Doc Rivers could trust. Rather than hindering each other’s games, each Celtic did less so the team could do more. The players understood their statistics would decrease, and that didn’t matter one bit. They were playing for championships now, and that’s all they cared about. It’s still all they care about now, more than three years after the Garnett Era began. The Celtics call it ‘ubuntu’, now, but really it’s just Celtic Pride.
Even if this Celtics team doesn’t win another title, even if 2008 proves to be the last time KG, Pierce and Allen held the Larry O’Brien Trophy, this crew is filled with worthy champions. Being a Celtic means something again, and the Garnett Era Celtics are a team Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Bob Cousy and the rest of the old-timers can be proud of. Even when these Celtics don’t win championships, they play the right way. They play with no personal agendas, no thoughts of individual stats or glory.
When I look back at this team, I will remember a fearless bunch that simply wanted to win championships. Nothing else matters to these men. That’s why they have been able to restore Celtic Pride, and that’s why Celtics history should remember the Garnett Era Celtics in the fondest fashion, even if they fail to win another title.