Thank You, Dad: A Journey That Began In 2002

Thank you.

"Hey, the Celtics are in the playoffs. We've been watching their games at night. They are playing right now. Can you call me and give me updates on how the game is going?"

My dad said those words to me in 2002 as the Boston Celtics were playing the New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics and Nets were tied in the series 1-1, and when I turned on the television in my parent's room things looked awfully bad for Boston.

The Celtics trailed 74-53 entering the final quarter in Boston. Nothing was going right for the Celtics, and I considered turning off the television. Being the sports-obsessed kid I was in middle school, I watched with eager anticipation. I had to know what I would tell my dad.

Like many people my age, I grew up watching Michael Jordan. I have vivid memories of the championships he won as a member of the Bulls, but nothing ever linked me to that team. I watched games on a consistent basis on WGN and other networks, but I never had a connection or allegiance to any team. That changed on that evening in 2002.

Who knows what would have happened if I had turned the television off. I didn't, and I witnessed one of the greatest Celtics comebacks in the club's history. It was that day that my fanhood began, and it hasn't fizzled since.

As you can tell by now, I'm obviously not old enough to remember the greats. I'm only a 22-year-old who knows most of his Boston Celtics history from FreeDarko books, documentaries, books, articles and other stories. I never watched Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, Don Nelson, Dave Cowens, Robert Parish or John Havlicek play. I never saw Bill Russell win any of his many finger decorations (rings). For that matter, I wasn't even alive when Boston won its 16th banner.

I watched and followed as best as a kid living in rural Tennessee could have ever done. The sports section of the newspaper was my best friend, and I perused the box scores from Celtics games on a daily basis. For many of the years between 2002 and 2007, I endured some rough times like any Boston fan.

I remember Mikki Moore's first stint with Boston. You know, before he seemed to foul five times in two minutes (or so it seemed). All three games in the 2002-2003 season. I remember them.

I remember the Antoine Walker shimmy. I could never win on NBA Live with Mark Blount, Tony Battie and Vin Baker. I was terrible at the game, but they weren't that much better.

I can vividly hear Walter McCarty's name being uttered by Tommy Heinsohn . Ricky Davis made me understand love/hate relationships. I loved saying Tom Gugliotta's name merely because I was a really weird teenager.

I almost fainted when I found out Gary Payton would be a member of the Boston Celtics. I was overly excited when I watched the Celtics acquire Jameer Nelson's teammate, Delonte West, in the NBA Draft. I only knew him as Jameer Nelson's teammate at the time.

I thought Michael Olowokandi was going to be the answer in 2005. I was stupid. He scored 45 points the entire season. I loved Wally Szczerbiak because he was everything I envisioned myself being as an NBA player. Not in real life but in the ones I created in video games, of course.

I laughed ignorantly as a teenager in 2005 because Brian Scalabrine had red hair and played in the NBA. I thought that was the most hilarious thing ever. I watch Gerald Green play for the Nets now and remember when he was the 6-foot-8, superstar-in-the-makings that never worked out in Boston. I cry when I think about it. And then I go eat a cupcake in his honor.

I watched Tony Allen blow lay-ups, and quickly earn my approval back with his phenomenal defensive play. And I watched Paul Pierce grow up, not from the beginning of his career, but I watched Pierce grow into his own as a star in the league as he fully embraced what it meant to be a Celtic. I have so many memories of Pierce that I'll never forget or regret.

Those names surely bring back memories, some sad and some sweet, for Celtics fans like myself. None of them truly compare to any of the great Boston players mentioned previously -- Russel, Bird, Cousy, except for Pierce. But I appreciate those years and those players between 2002 and 2007 all the same.

When the Big Three was put together in August of 2007, I was giddy. Ray Allen, my favorite shooter of all-time, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were joining forces in Boston to compete for a championship. It wasn't long before I got to taste that glorious success that so many Celtics fans felt in the years before my existence.

The Celtics won so many games with the Big Three in green. They beat the rivals, the Lakers, in six games, and I finally understood why Boston fans hated Los Angeles. The core group came within seven minutes of winning the Celtics an 18th NBA title. As recent as last night, only eight minutes separated the Celtics from an improbable trip to the NBA Finals. All in all, they endured injuries, defied the odds and surpassed many of the expectations that were placed upon them.

In the end, the 2007-2012 Big Three era will be much better documented by someone far more talented than I am in the coming years, but what they have accomplished cannot be ignored. This team was nothing but a pleasure to support over the past five years. I can't wait for the next chapter.

The 2002 Eastern Conference Finals were the beginning, and the end of the Big Three era will surely not be the end for me as a Celtics fan. After all, I've seen what it means to be a true Celtic. I've witnessed Ubuntu and the cohesion that drove a group of superstars to success and paved the way for many more Big Three groups around the league in the coming years.

I've followed Boston through my teenage years that, in a way, shaped me into the person I am today. The good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the wins and the losses, all of them bring me to where I am today -- grateful for everything that has happened in my life.

So as the Celtics begin life without knowing what the future holds for the Big Three, one thing is certain: the Boston Celtics and the Celtic Pride that the older generation of Celtics put into place will not be going anywhere. And neither will I. I'm thankful to be a fan of arguably the greatest franchise in the NBA.

Thanks for asking me to keep you updated, Dad. Oh, and one more thing before I hangup.

Hey, Dad. The Celtics came back and won.

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