Since the end of game 7, so many people have written so eloquently of the era that appears to be over for the Boston Celtics. Several of which have appeared on this site or have been linked to here (and I'm sure I've missed several others as well). So I believe we've got that topic covered adequately enough for the time being.
What I thought I'd do is take a moment to appreciate you. Yes, you. The fans. You know, the people that this is all for. The working Joe and the full time mom and the kids dribbling a ball wearing a Rondo jersey. The 60-somethings that remember the old days and the pre-teens that don't remember the team before the Big 3. The all American girls and the boys from the Philippines.
You are all unique and yet you share a common connection that brings you back to this site day after day. For that I thank you. I'm climbing my desk and standing in salute of you. I'm raising my glass and toasting you. I'm putting aside social norms and giving you a big, heartfelt, James Posey-like bear hug. In short, I'm proud of you.
Pride is a funny thing. Too much of it or the wrong kind of it is considered a sin. Yet there's a good type of pride as well. A craftsman should take pride in their workmanship. A parent should be proud of their children when they do the right thing. A fan should be proud of their team when they succeed. I just want to say that I'm proud of the way you have regained (or in some cases, retained) your pride.
To explain, allow me to take you back on my own little story. I cut my teeth on another Big 3. Their names were Bird, McHale, and Parish. I had a starry eyed reverence for them. I had posters and hats and T-shirts and a big green foam finger. I knew nothing of Bill Russell or Bob Cousy or even John Havlicek or Dave Cowens. I just knew that we had the most championships and we hated the Lakers.
I didn't think any team in the world would ever beat that 1986 team (still a pretty good theoretical debate). I didn't think anything could hurt as much as Magic's hook shot in 1987 (if only life were that easy). I didn't know a lot, but I knew that the Celtics played the game beautifully and they were among the league's royalty. And I was proud of them.
The next several years were hard. Very hard. Len Bias, enough said. Reggie Lewis, ditto. Larry Bird's bone spurs and back problems. Keven McHale's foot. There were bright spots and memorable moments to be sure, but the luster was gone. The era was over before the Big 3 hung up their short shorts.
What followed is what every kid goes through when they have to grow up and face the realities of life. Heroes fade away, good doesn't always win, and life doesn't always have happy endings. The Celtics were still my first love, but I admit that I didn't follow the team all that closely during my college years. I was thousands of miles away from Boston and they didn't exactly show up on National TV much. In short, I don't remember much if anything about Marty Conlon.
Oddly enough, I started getting back into the team during the Rick Pitino years. There was at least the promise of hope. The wishful thinking that this could be the time to turn things around. I dug my roots into a far-away land called Virginia but in my heart I was always a Boston boy (well, Plymouth to be exact, but you get the idea). So this new thing called the Internet allowed me to connect to Boston fans from all over the globe with a few clicks.
That's where I discovered you. The diehard Celtics fans that follow this team through thick, thin, and thoroughly drenched. The kind of kooks that spend hours a day pouring over per-minute stats to prove that Gerald Green deserves more playing time. The optimists that believed that Antoine Walker could win us a title and the pessimists that doubted the 2008 team right up until game 6.
I've made lifetime friends that I've never met in person and I've surely ticked off a few folks along the way. I started out as some guy who called himself "ranter" on the message boards of some now-defunct site. At some point someone asked me to be a moderator. At some point after that I decided that I liked the sound of my own voice so much that someone else might as well, so I started the simply named CelticsBlog (with that same guy that originally asked me to be a moderator).
I'd love to say that the rest is history, but that would be doing a disservice to the years of promise, pain, and post after post after post that came before Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett did. Antoine Walker left, came back, and left again. Gary Payton and Ricky Davis wore Celtic uniforms. Paul Pierce was stabbed and later nearly left town via trade. Through it all I blogged, you read, you commented, you told friends about the site.
We didn't always have great things to talk about but we had each other. We were fans and that's what we did. At times we were laughed at by our friends. The media made us the butt of jokes. We were something to be pitied, not envied. There were 16 banners hanging from the rafters but the old building was torn down and the new one didn't feel much like a Garden. We were still diehards, but we just didn't have much to be proud of anymore.
The summer of 2007 changed all that of course. By luck or skill or fate or all three, Danny Ainge made silk out of a sow's ear and ushered in a new era.
Kevin Garnett changed the culture. Ray Allen raised the bar. Paul Pierce embraced selfless leadership. Kendrick Perkins morphed from a lumbering oaf into a snarling defensive force. Rajon Rondo simply grew up before our eyes, for better or worse. And of course Doc Rivers orchestrated it all beautifully.
The three year plan turned into a 5 year plan and the Boston Celtics were constant contenders. They were envied and hated and all the things that happen when you are a success. But underneath it all was that one powerful word. Respect.
And so a new generation of fans was treated to the kind of pride that I had when I started watching sports for the first time. Our sons and daughters got to witness Celtic greatness and our mothers and fathers got to see it once again.
It won't last forever and if it comes again it won't come easy. But as they say, nothing good ever does. But I'm still that starry eyed kid with the big green foam finger. The only difference is that now I have all of you, who have collectively been my brothers and sisters.
We follow this silly sport with a serious passion and we invest our hearts into something we have no control over. But that's all part of the fun. To be a fan is to be a fanatic and sport is the original "reality TV." You just can't script it.
So as we look ahead at the next era, we will debate endlessly over who should stay and who should go. Who we should draft and who we should trade for. We'll analyze and second guess every move Danny Ainge makes and we'll play armchair GM all summer long. Except now we'll do it knowing that we won it all in 2008 and we got to experience the latest Big 3 era in all its glory.
We aren't just fans of "that team that was once great." We're fans of the 17 time Champion Boston Celtics and we were very much a part of that last banner. We lived this era as much as any of the players or coaches. We love this team and we love and respect each other. We have tremendous pride.