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In six minutes the joy of Celtics’ opening night turned into a nightmare

The Kyrie Irving-LeBron James noise lowered to a mute, the joy of watching all-stars span the floor on both sides dissipated. A summer full of anticipation flushed out of the building like they took the roof off. The words will haunt everyone around the Celtics going forward, “Gordon Hayward just broke his leg.”

NBA: Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

When Gordon Hayward hit the floor after colliding awkwardly with LeBron James in the air, trying to catch a first quarter high ally-oop on his back cut from Kyrie Irving, the camera showed him from behind as he hit the floor hard.

He slid to his right, clearly in pain and I immediately wondered. Did he hurt his back? Did he tweak something?

Kevin Harlan encapsulated the immediate agony in few short words, “Gordon Hayward just broke his leg.”

The Celtics and Cavaliers staffs later announced that Hayward fractured his left ankle on the fall.

Then, nothing. The Q went quiet save for a faint murmuring from the stands. The TNT broadcast booth was quiet for minutes.

Dwyane Wade and others knelt to the ground. Jaylen Brown rushed away from the area with his hands on his head. The Celtics were shown huddled together — some were in tears and began hugging each other on the other end of the court. Cleveland’s bench gather in support around James.

After a few more minutes of uncertainty, Hayward was stabilized in a cast by the Boston medical team and stretchered off the court. James shook his hand several times.

All of the storylines we clamored about for over one month prior to the season —that had the stadium buzzing in the game’s opening minutes— felt useless as the excitement flushed out of the stadium. The intensity of the season beginning, the expectations for both teams, The Q booing Irving every time he touched the ball.

It was hard to believe the teams were going to play basketball again.

A chill rushed through my spine when I heard the call, it had to be the worst I have ever felt watching a Celts game, with no close second.

This summed it up perfectly:

Much more will be known later, when Hayward’s treatment plan and timeline become clearer. The Celtics’ path forward may have gotten much tougher than we ever could have expected. On a night that was initially filled with joy, the outlook for the season took a turn for the worse.

That’s sports. Nothing is ever certain. It’s what makes seasons like last year that much sweeter and important to enjoy in the moment. The fragility of sport always makes moments like this possible, and now all we can do is hope Hayward returns to the court as strong as he ever was.

Sending my blessing to Hayward, his family, and wish them the speediest recovery possible.

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