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Goodbye, Big Game


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Through no fault of your own, this letter is being written far too soon.

You signed yesterday with the New Orleans Hornets, which by definition means that you will no longer be a Boston Celtic from here on out.  It was a contract and security you earned through your hard-nosed play both for our beloved Celtics and at several other stops throughout your career.  You did the green a favor by coming at a bargain price a summer ago, and there is certainly no grudge to bear against you on this end.  As you said so accurately, no matter what both you and the Celtics would have liked, there were business factors to be addressed on both sides, and both acted as they saw best fit.  No love lost on either side.

But your signing in N'Awlins does mean that after just one short year, the time has come to say goodbye.

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It took only a short time for you to win the hearts of the Celtics faithful across the globe.

Less than a month into the season, The Guru was already enamored with -- of all things -- your deceptive quickness to the basket, as demonstrated by two beautiful cuts for give-and-go lay-ups in a late November game in Miami.  Shortly thereafter, he and the rest of the lovers of the green came to realize that your ability to get to the basket every now and then was just a small part of the wonderful contribution you would make to this beloved championship team.

Over the course of this year, you came to be one more embodiment (on a team that featured many) of not only what this squad was all about but also about what it means to play Celtics basketball: Selflessness.  Defense.  Blood, sweat, tears and guts-out basketball.  Hustle.  Heart.  Toughness.  Clutch play.  Poise.  Ubuntu.  Winning.

You set the tone every game with the coolest and longest-lasting hugs of all time for each of the starters.

You impressed us all season long with your throwback version of physical defense.  The way you ragged opponents to the point of seemingly getting inside the jerseys of top scorers around the league was a sight to behold.  The frustration on the faces of those scorers that brought so much glee to our evenings was largely due to your efforts on many occasions.

You helped enhance this team's swagger with your refusal to back down from anyone.

You showed us time and time again the meaning of having ice in one's veins.  Whether it was in that relaxed, kind-of-off-one-foot three-point stroke of yours (the one that drained four huh-yuge treys in the memorable Game 4 comeback in Los Angeles) or the way you would stroll to the foul line with all the confidence imaginable in the final seconds of playoff games (closing out Game 1 against the Cavs comes to mind in particular), you never seemed to get rattled on the court.  Watching you play this year was a lesson in calmness and composure, and that was only more evident during the biggest of moments.

But the most charming part of your game was the way it was always crystal clear that, for all your seemingly laid-back coolness on the court, you were in it to win it.  You pursued loose balls with a vengeance and force of will rarely seen in this game today.  So often, your actions made it apparent that you wanted it more than the other guy, that no matter what risk you incurred to your body by diving and leaping in all manner of spots from any variety of angles, you were here to do everything in your power for the name on the front of the jersey without worrying about the glory or the spotlight or the stats for the name on the back.  In a world where it often seems that we fans care more than the players we root for do, you were one more player on a team full of them who made sure this wasn't the case with the 2007-08 Boston Celtics.  When I wrote that you struck me as the type of guy who would kill his own mother for a loose ball, it wasn't meant to be as crude as it sounds.  It was meant as the highest compliment I could think to give you for the effort and desire you put in every single time out for this team so many of us love so much.

In just one short year, you won not only my heart but those of an enormous group of members of the green faithful around the globe.

Just because it's time for you to go won't cost you that.  You'll always have a special place in our thoughts and recollections of a truly memorable team.

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I wish you all the best in New Orleans, James.  Well, almost all the best.  Here's hoping you help the Hornets to the Western Conference Finals next year and no further -- because I really don't like thinking about the idea of you being on the other side should the green make a return trip to the NBA Finals.

Thanks for doing your part to make this such a special year for Celtics fans everywhere.

Goodbye, Big Game James.  You will be missed.


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