As sports fans, many of us have a tendency to feel some sort of an attachment to certain players. This can range from enjoying someone's play over a period of time to knowing every little thing about them. These players' performances directly affect your personal feelings. If they are playing well, you feel an internal delight that really cannot be explained in any way or form. What makes us feel this way about these players? Here you are smiling in joy as they accomplish their goals and you're just sitting there watching while they have absolutely no clue who you are. You've probably never even made mere eye contact with this player. For some reason, this attachment occurs, and at times you'll feel like nothing in the world is more important than what this player achieves for his team.
Growing up, for me, it was Nomar Garciaparra. I remember during his rookie season being 7 years old and talking about him with my grandfather during the near-end of a disappointing season for the Red Sox in 1996.
"He's a vacuum cleaner out there! I'm telling you this kid is going to be amazing"! He told me.
I, on the other hand, thought an outfielder by the name of Rudy Pemberton was the better rookie. Rudy was batting over .400 at the time. He had to be the better player right? What I didn't understand was that Rudy had only played about ten games at this point. Truth be told, Rudy's Major League career ended the very next year after appearing in only 52 games and hitting 3 home runs.
In 1997 that very next year, I became a believer and fell in love with Nomar. I copied his batting stance, threw sidearm from shortstop, became engulfed with excitement every single time he stepped up to the plate, and almost fainted when I found out his true first name is Anthony. Nomar truly was my first love in a weird sports obsessed way.
We all know the rest of the story with Nomar. In only nine years spent with the Red Sox, he stands alone as the greatest Red Sox shortstop of all time. Something happened to end his tenure with the Red Sox that did not feel right, especially for a fifteen year old boy who worshipped his every move. In 2004, after a few injury plagued seasons which included a slight drop in his production and problems with management surrounding a contract extension, Nomar was traded. It was on that day, July 31st, 2004, a day I will never forget, when he was traded for a slick fielding first baseman in Doug Mientkiewicz and probably the best shortstop we've seen since Nomar in Orlando Cabrera. The Red Sox went onto win the World Series that year. It was an amazing year for a Red Sox fan, but for me, it could have been 100 times better had my childhood hero been on the team.
Fast forward to March 1st,2012, the Boston Celtics are only 17-17 half way through a shortened season. Doc Rivers (the head coach) and Danny Ainge (director of player operations) have decided that the Celtics are now unable to compete with the best of them after four successful seasons including a championship in 2008 and coming minutes from another in 2010. Their core-4 players during this run have now been concluded to be available for trade. For the right price, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, or Kevin Garnett can be sent on their way just like Nomar was within the blink of an eye.
For the past 14 years beginning in 1998, if one person has the defined the Boston Celtics, it has been Paul Pierce. When the Celtics began to excite people a little bit during the late 90's-early 2000's, it was because Paul Pierce was that young star carrying them on his back. Tides began to shift eventually and as the excitement dropped for the Celtics who were stuck in mediocrity throughout the mid-2000s, fingers were pointed at Paul and maybe this cocky, awkward shaped "tease" would better serve this team being traded.
Rajon Rondo was drafted in 2006 late in the first round when most Celtics fans would have preferred this pick being Marcus Williams, a UCONN product. Rondo surprised some people in his rookie year with his ridiculous athleticism and ball handling while providing sufficient passing and pesky defense. Too bad only the die-hards were able to watch him play that year as the Celtics had their worst season in franchise history.
Because of that terrible 2006-2007 season, Celtics fans were excited to possibly add a franchise cornerstone with a top-2 draft pick in Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. The ping pong balls didn't bounce their way as they ended up with the 5th pick. Surprisingly on draft night in late June, Danny Ainge traded Wally Sczerbiak, Delonte West, and the number 5 overall pick later to become Jeff Green to the Seattle Supersonics for Ray Allen and a second round pick, becoming Glen Davis. Ray was an All Star fixture and widely regarded as the best shooter in basketball. Many believed pairing Ray with Pierce would do nothing but bring the Celtics back to mediocrity, but the optimists were left wondering what would happen next.
Jump to barely one month later on a beautiful, sunny morning in Boston July, 31st 2007. Rumors began to spread quickly on the internet that the Boston Celtics were about to trade for Kevin Garnett, one of the greatest power forwards of all time. Nobody could believe it was possible: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen on the same team? The possibilities were endless of what this trio could do together in Boston. By the end of the day, these rumors became a reality. The Boston Celtics traded Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, and a first round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett. Three full months before the season even started, basketball in Boston became relevant once again.
These past four plus years have been an emotional roller coaster for a true Celtic fan. We hit that top of the roller coaster beating the Lakers in 2008 for Banner 17 while almost surpassing that with another in 2010 only to come minutes away from achieving that goal. Between those years and now, the Celtics have kept us on the edge of our seats with many dramatic moments in the playoffs, streaks of absolute dominance throughout the seasons, and now coming to a possible rebuilding phase within the next two weeks. We've seen bandwagon jumpers hopping on and off, but one fact remains steady: true Celtic fans have had the time of their lives witnessing this era in Boston Celtic history and wouldn't do a thing to change it.
During these past 4 and a half years, I, personally, have developed an attachment to what I call "the core-4": Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, and last but certainly not least, Kevin Garnett. I'm not sure when it happened or what was the deciding factor, but nothing has come close to watching these four players compete together as one. Seeing any of these players go will certainly end an amazing era. Whatever happens, happens, and if Danny Ainge can improve the future of Boston Celtics basketball then he should certainly do it. Whether it is within the next 2 weeks or even within the next two years, when one or more of Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, or Kevin Garnett is traded, a certain draining feeling will surely come back that I've only experienced once in my lifetime with the Nomar trade. Although it has only been 4 short years, we must all now realize that we are extremely lucky to have witnessed the Boston Celtics achieve greatness.