Wait ’till next year.
A saying reserved for losers. A sports banality rolled out by all but one team in every league in every sport across the globe at the end of every single season. Sure, we didn’t win it this time but ‘wait till next year.’
In fact Celtics fans have been waiting till next year, since the beginning of this year. When Gordon Hayward went down 5 minutes into the first game of the season Celtics fans were robbed of the opportunity to see how good this team could be with two bona-fide superstars (Hayward, Kyrie Irving) added to a young core.
By now the story is well told. Hayward’s opening night injury accelerated the development of second year player Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum and the Celtics led by Irving found themselves among the NBA’s elite teams even without their prized free agent acquisition. And then Irving went down late in the season with a knee injury never to be seen again.
Again…wait till next year.
But then the Celtics went on a remarkable, improbable, inspiring run through the playoffs. Led by a perennial though unspectacular All-star (‘Average’ Al Horford) a promising rookie turned legitimate NBA star (Jayson Tatum), a fearless point guard who became a national meme (Scary Terry Rozier), and a second year player (Jaylen Brown) who was resoundingly booed by Celtics fans when the team drafted him two years ago. This group – without it’s ‘stars’ – got to within a whisper of dethroning the greatest player of his generation and earning a trip to the NBA Finals.
They did it by believing and proving to everyone they belonged now. Not next year. Right now. And they made us all realize that while waiting for next year, we never wanted this year to end.
No one needs to look to hard to find solace in the Celtics season ending defeat. It’s a loss that felt less like the end and more like a beginning. To LeBron James and the rest of the league, the Celtics aren’t just coming for what’s yours. They’re already here.
Just wait till next year.
For these Celtics it’s not so much a tired cliche as it is a promise.
Composed by John Zannis for CLNS Media and CelticsBlog