An entire generation of Celtics fans grew up wondering what it looks like to see a Celtics championship. Here was their answer.
Editor's Note: Like the Celtics, Celticsblog has added some depth to our bench of authors this off-season. Greg is the newest addition to the writing team here, following earlier offseason additions of TenaciousT and Jimmy Toscano. We're excited to have him on board, and look forward to future contributions from Greg. - Green17
By Greg Payne
I am 19 years old and I am a diehard Celtics fan. What does my age have to do with being a Celtics fan? It means that I am a member of the Generation That Never Won Anything Until 2008 Happened. When I was born in 1989, the 22-year championship drought was just getting started, and based on the franchise's record of accomplishment; no one would have assumed such a dry spell would have lasted as long as it did. Unfortunately, a losing mindset was slowly creeping into the very fibers of the franchise itself, driving away legions of dedicated followers who were fortunate enough to witness Russell and Cousy, Havlicek and Cowens, Bird and McHale. And with disillusionment spreading amongst some of the team's older fans, it was up to my generation to pick up the slack as the next generation of rabid Celtics fans.
I'm sure the reasons for fans of my generation taking up a distinct loyalty to the Celtics are unique. However, one thing was obvious: we are not front-runners. Not with M.L. Carr and Rick Pitino at the helm guiding the Celtics to consistently terrible records. But some way or another, we discovered this team and we never let go.
For me, it was a love of the game and Ron Mercer that roped me in. Yes, I have Ron Mercer to thank for becoming a Celtics fan. You see, my father witnessed the 60s, 70s and 80s squads and when he bought my brother a Ron Mercer jersey, I immediately inquired as to who the man was. The following night, my father switched on the television and there were the Celtics and Mercer.
I'm sure other stories of discovery range far and wide, but what I find even more compelling than stories of discovery is the reasons why we stayed with the Celtics. Why wasn't it just a one-and-done type of deal with this team? Why didn't we recognize that the team was at rock bottom? The reasons probably depend on the person, but no matter what the logic was, I'm proud of those of us that stayed as Celtics fans.
There were plenty of critics, cynics and pundits who attempted to put us down for our dedication to a floundering franchise. But for those of us who stayed, it was simply talk that went in one ear and out the other. Maybe it was a longing to see something through to completion. Maybe it was just a fierce and distinct sense of loyalty to the team. Maybe it was Paul Pierce offering a sincere sign of hope.
And as the new decade rolled along and we suffered through the Kedrick Brown, Vin Baker and Jiri Welsch-related headaches. Although the Celtics were seemingly lifeless once the 2006-2007 season concluded in a 24-58 record, we were still here.
It became a vicious cycle. Season after season would end in what seemed like either a lottery drawing or a first-round playoff exit. Yet somehow, no matter which moves were or were not made, the offseason cleansed us. And before we knew it, the regular season was upon us once again and we felt rejuvenated, confident and excited about our chances. Unfortunately, our feelings of hope were usually dashed by the All-Star break. Deep down, I honestly believe that we all felt some sort of strange pride in the fact that we had stuck by a losing team for so very long. That sense of pride ultimately brought us closer together. And we knew deep down that when this team actually resurfaced and won a championship - no matter how long it took -it was going to be that much sweeter.
To better understand the glory days we checked out ESPN Classic. Or we read the innumerable books that spoke of dynasties and hall of fame players and retired numbers and brighter days. Or we inquired with our parents or grandparents, about what winning really felt like. What was a championship like? What was it like watching Bill Russell grab that rebound or Dave Cowens rip that ball away or Larry Bird sink that game-winning shot? Was it really as exciting as they say it was?
But for all the research we could have done on the past, it couldn't change what we were facing in the present. We were starving for a taste of glory for ourselves, and no history book or spoken story could have quenched such a hunger. (taste = food to me, not drink, the analogy is good but keep it consistent throughout, I went food here, but you can flip it to drink if you prefer)
And then, quite suddenly it happened. In came Ray Allen, followed closely by Kevin Garnett. And suddenly, the Boston Celtics were championship favorites!?!? Was it actually happening? Was this what we had been waiting for? Surely, it was too good to be true. Losing was all my generation knew. The height of winning for us was getting blasted in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2002.
But before we knew it, Ubuntu had defined our season and James Posey was man hugging everyone. The playoffs were our destination and we strolled in as the number one seed. And after two life-threatening series against the Hawks and Cavaliers in which the stakes themselves threatened to tear us apart, we were advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. Before we knew it, we were celebrating in Detroit as the Eastern Conference Champions.
In the Finals Pierce was hurt and then he wasn't and then we were losing terribly in Game 4 and somehow we survived and Pierce shouted, "One more C's!" And it wasn't a dream or another story or a reading out of a book. It was reality. It was our reality. This was our time. This was actually happening. And finally, with Game 6 seemingly over at halftime, we celebrated.
We celebrated with each other, the young men and women and children of the Generation That Never Won Anything Until 2008 Happened. We celebrated with those who witnessed Russell and Cowens and Bird and never gave up. We celebrated with those who re-discovered a franchise they had assumed was lost.
We had our legends in Pierce, Garnett and Allen. We had our classic moments in Ray sinking the Bobcats back in November at the buzzer (still the greatest finish I've ever seen,), Posey poking the ball away from Prince and the Game 6 comeback in the ECF and the Game 4 comeback in the finals that was too amazing to be believed. We had our stories for our kids and look forward to books written about a championship we actually witnessed.
Much like Paul Pierce took his seat alongside the greatest of the Celtic greats, we too, the Generation That Never Won Anything Until 2008 Happened, could finally look our elders in the eyes and say we had witnessed greatness, just like the kind they always told us about.