Back in 2017, I was in the second year of a part-time university degree, aged 29. For most of my adult life, I had drifted from job to job, not knowing what I wanted to do with my profession or where I envisioned myself being in the next five years. All I knew was that I needed to improve my chances of securing a career that I was passionate about and would provide for my young family.
I’ve always liked technology and problem-solving and loved to be creative any chance I got, so I thought a career in computer programming would be ideal. Through my first year of study, I realized that holding down a full-time job, training martial arts, finding quality family time, and studying would mean that my social life would take a back seat for the better part of the next decade. I needed an outlet, something that would allow me to unwind after I had ticked off all the boxes on that day’s to-do list.
Basketball has always been a passion of mine. I played at multiple levels here in the UK throughout my younger years and kept up with the Boston Celtics come hell or high water. As such, I created a Twitter account and launched a podcast as a way of providing myself with some form of social interaction that wouldn’t consume too much time from my day-to-day life.
How wrong I was.
Soon enough, I cared more about learning new aspects of the game, ways in which to improve the quality of my podcast, and what I would need to do to keep growing my ‘brand.’
I remember one night, a Twitter friend of mine told me I should start writing about the Celtics and recommended Fansided as an entry point. Things moved pretty quickly from there.
I began to develop surface-level relationships with members of the Celtics media ecosystem, had developed a small but engaged following, and was passing up my coursework to pour more time into anything basketball-related.
After a few years had passed, I had become disillusioned with my choice of study. If I hated the thought of opening a textbook or sitting down to write code now, how would I feel when that was my 9-to-5? I knew basketball was what I wanted to do, but I lived 3000 miles away, and contrary to what you might believe, that comes with a seemingly insurmountable amount of barriers.
I didn’t care, though. How could I ever raise my daughter to follow her dreams and lead a fulfilling life if my example was to lay down and accept defeat? I never wanted to look back and ask what if. Instead, I want to know I gave something everything I had and left nothing on the table. If I’m successful, great; if not, well, at least there would be no regrets.
So, I reached out to Jeff Clark here at CelticsBlog to inquire about any open positions on the blog. Obviously, things turned out well on that front, as I’ve been fortunate enough to be gifted a platform where I am writing this very article right now — and have been writing for multiple years at this point.
It was then that I realized it was time I followed my heart rather than my head, come hell or high water. I dropped my university course, despite completing 50% of the degree with a B+ average, and pivoted to studying creative writing in the hopes of becoming a better storyteller and journalist. I dedicated countless hours to trying my hand at every form of sportswriting possible - game analysis, aggregation, news copy, editorials, and think pieces. You name it, I dipped my toes in.
It was Bill Sy — arguably the most supportive person on the entire planet — who advised me to keep working at everything and, eventually, I would find my lane (which I like to think I have at this point with breaking down the X’s and O’s of the game).
However, over the ensuing years, I kept running into the same brick wall. I was simply and frustratingly too far away. My chances of finding full-time employment in the NBA were slim-to-none, as it was far easier to employ an American than it was to fight through the red tape of bringing me and my family to the States. I watched more and more of my friends begin to get amazing opportunities, and some of them are now full-time media for the teams they cover. But I was glued in place, unable to progress any further than where I was simply because geography was, and remains to be, against me.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with my wife over this and how I questioned my decision to pass up a surefire career to chase this dream. Yet, even in my darkest moments, she supported me. Even when I was working dead-end jobs to pay the bills and putting in late nights to write articles, secure podcast guests, or record content, she had my back.
As did everyone here at CelticsBlog. There’s something special about the team on this site — but more on that in a moment.
At the start of the 2021-22 season, I decided enough was enough, and it was finally time to throw myself into the deep end to see if I would sink or swim. I quit my job and cobbled together as much freelance work as I could. So far, I’m swimming, and long may it continue. But life is fickle, and that year didn’t come without its hardships (just like it does for everyone, I’m sure.)
During the off-season, I wrote about how losing my grandmother affected me and continues to affect me. But what I didn’t share was the crippling social anxiety that grief and long hours of solitude has caused me. I no longer train martial arts (a passion of mine for over 20 years) despite still paying for my gym membership every month. I don’t leave the house for more than an hour at a time, and every social interaction leaves me questioning the impression I left on people. I’m working on it though, and each day is a step in the right direction.
So, when I got the news that I had been approved to cover the Celtics-Lakers game as credentialed media courtesy of some magic from Jeff Clark, you can only imagine the wave of emotions that swept pver me.
Vindication: All these years of work, with a significant time difference.
Excitement: I would finally get to live my dream of being part of the NBA ecosystem and ‘do the job’ for a day...could this lead to more chances?
Fear: I would be flying out on my own and be outside of my bubble for four days; how would I cope?
And, of course, imposter syndrome: Would I say or do something stupid? Do I really deserve this opportunity and at a game of this magnitude in terms of media coverage no less?
Nevertheless, I booked my flights and hotel, and two weeks later, I was standing at the doors to the departure lounge at Heathrow.
“I can’t do this. I’m going to turn back and go home.”
That was my overriding thought as I lined up to get through security and check in for my flight. Trembling, breathless, and ready to run a million miles in the opposite direction. Social anxiety in overdrive. A text from Jeff and a call from my wife helped put my mind at ease, and with that, I boarded the 3000-mile flight across the Atlantic to Boston.
Once I landed in the City of Champions, I was shocked at the similarities it had to my hometown of Birmingham, UK. Industrial, busy, and colder than one would like. It certainly felt like a home away from home.
I had twenty-four hours until game time. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go sightseeing, but I wanted to experience some of the city and more importantly, meet up with some people that I’ve only known through a computer screen or on the other side of a microphone.
Over the past 18 months, I have grown close with Will Weir and Greg Maneikis, who hosted CelticsPod with me, and now bring you their own Green With Envy show on the CelticsBlog podcast feed. Once they knew I was heading to their hometown of Dorchester for the weekend, they booked their flights from Texas so that we could hang out for the first time in person. I mean, how many people do you know who would do that?
Shortly after landing on Friday, we joined up with Tim Sheils and went out for some food at Molinari’s before heading to a few bars to have some drinks and hang out for a few hours - courtesy of an incredibly generous gesture from Bill Sy.
On Saturday morning, I went shopping at a local mall, buying some gifts for my wife and daughter before meeting back up with Will to grab some lunch at Wahlburgers, which, by the way, is delicious. A quick Uber ride back to the hotel, and it was time for a pre-game nap. My body clock was still on English time, and I had no idea what time I would be walking out of the arena later that night.
I step out of my Uber and see the entrance to TD Garden, a gateway I’ve seen countless times when watching on League Pass. The green-lit escalators heading into the Garden, the street vendors selling Beastie Boys-style fake chains, foam fingers, and the like hanging on the corner of Canal Street. There’s a real buzz in the air with the Lakers in town, with fans piling in from all angles.
Here I was, standing outside of the arena I’ve spent the last 6 or 7 years wishing I could visit. The reality began to set in: I wasn’t here as just a fan. Have you ever had that feeling of excitement and nerves mixed together before? Like you don’t know whether to smile, cry, or try and internalize everything to remain steel faced on the outside?
That’s how I felt as I walked toward the doors which led up to the press area. The walk felt endless, like I was walking on a treadmill with a holographic background passing me by. In truth, it probably took me less than 5 minutes. It’s crazy how your mind compartmentalizes things, right? As I entered, I give media relations my name, and in return, they handed me a lanyard with my name printed on it.
This is it.
For the night, I’m officially media.
In that one surreal moment that may seem so inconsequential, my dream had come true. Everything I had been working toward was in my hand. It was like the universe had heard all of my internal prayers and positioned me to be there just when I needed it most. The whole exchange took less than 30 seconds to complete, but it’s a moment that will live with me for eternity.
Once inside, I find myself sitting in a canteen with CLNS Media’s Josue Pavon and MassLive’s Souichi Terada. After they leave, a familiar loud and confident voice enters the room and begins ringing out behind me in conversation. I turn to see NBC Boston’s Brian Scalabrine just sitting there, I mean, two tables behind me, talking with some other media members. To the right of me is Celtics legend and radio analyst Cedric Maxwell, and to the left is NBC Boston’s Abby Chin.
Coming in, you know these people are going to be around, and you will likely cross their path, but to actually be in the same room as them? Well, that’s a little different. Everywhere I looked, there was a member of Celtics history, be it a player or a beloved reporter. I was taking snapshots in my mind, creating an imaginary Instagram feed that had been curated just for me. Obviously, throughout the night, I also took the time to introduce myself, which, given my years of podcasting, was more of a first-time, real-life meeting than simply a ‘hi, I’m Adam’ type of thing.
The awesomeness didn’t stop there. I hear someone call my name from behind me, and turn to be greeted by former CelticsBlogger turned NESN reporter Greg Dudek who is one of the nicest people you could ever ask to meet. And throughout my time covering the Celtics, Boston Sports Journal’s and Locked On Celtics’ John Karalis has been a sounding board for me, and we have done quite a few podcasts together over the years. When he walks into the room and sees me sitting on my own, he comes over and sits with me, greets me, and we kick it until it’s time to head to the pre-game press conference.
So yeah, I sat in the same room as interim head coach Joe Mazzulla. You know, the All-Star coach for Team Giannis this year. It was my first opportunity, but I kept quiet. Call it nerves or simply being smart enough to understand I was in a new environment and could learn from the more experienced people around me. I didn’t need to ask a question. Just being in the same room as the Celtics' head coach was enough.
As you could expect, I had no idea how things flowed and found myself following the recognizable Twitter faces as they left the conference room. Some took a left turn, others took a right. Being a little nervous and slightly starstruck, I followed Karalis back into the canteen area before he advised me to go downstairs and check out the court.
Again, this might sound arbitrary to most, but being told I could walk out onto the courtside and mingle was another one of those ‘time stands still’ moments. ‘You mean we can go, right up to the court? Like, by the benches?’
What happened next was probably one of the coolest moments of my life. I didn’t know that to get to the court from the media area, you walk through the tunnel the players come out of — the same tunnel you walk through on NBA 2K MyPlayer, except this is real life. Walking out there, with fans starting to get into their seats, you feel like a superstar. More importantly, it felt like the tunnel was also a metaphor for me walking into the life I had been dreaming of, for the life I could one day have if the chips fall right.
It was a real ‘I made it a moment.’
Not because I felt like a player or thought I was anybody of particular importance. But because just six years earlier, I was working a minimum wage job in England with no idea how to turn my life around. And now, here I was, officially part of the media and watching LeBron James warm up and dunk just a few feet in front of me.
At that moment, it was hard to concentrate on the conversations I was having or the fact that I needed to start making my way to my assigned seat. All I could focus on was the fact that any minute now, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and the rest of the team were going to come through the same tunnel I had just waltzed through — it blew my mind.
And so, as I walked back through that tunnel and headed toward my seat, I stood, took a deep breath, and allowed myself to soak in the atmosphere around me.
The game itself went by far quicker than I would have liked, even with the overtime and LeBron’s late-game theatrics. At each break in play, it felt like I was meeting someone else I knew from Twitter: The Athletic’s Sam ‘Jam’ Packard, Jay King, and one of my favorite Celtics writers, Jared Weiss; CelticsBlog’s Bobby Manning and NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.
You may wonder why I’m wearing a hat in this picture. Perhaps you’re asking yourself why someone who claims to have been so deadset on making a good impression would choose to add an unnecessary piece of clothing. Well, I suffer from psoriasis when I’m stressed, and with the anxiety of making the trip, the dry air from the plane, and the weight of the moment, it flared up really bad. So, to keep my confidence intact, I chose to wear a hat — otherwise, I’m not sure I could have brought myself to attend the game.
Crazy how something as simple as a hat can have a whole backstory, isn’t it?
Throughout the game, I tried to approach it how I would from home despite the five-hour time change, noting down each action both teams ran, watching out for who was being hunted on defense, denied on offense, and slight adjustments made by the coaches. It’s a bit more difficult live though.
What I didn’t realize is the Garden gets loud...like loud loud. Watching on TV simply doesn’t do it justice. And before long, I found myself ebbing and flowing along with the game as a fan. Maybe it wasn’t exactly the most professional conduct, but this was Celtics-Lakers. Missed shot? I sighed. Made bucket? I clenched my fist in quiet celebration.
If and when this becomes more of a reality, I’ll be better, more buttoned up. Because, like you, I am a fan of this team. I love this team. They’re a significant part of my day-to-day life. I just so happen to be chasing a dream that may or may not take me to places where I have to cover a different organization. And more importantly, I want to do the best job at covering the team I love, which often means putting the fandom aside.
The post-game press conferences featured Mazzulla, Brown, and Tatum. I kept quiet for them all again. Learning. But most of all, allowing myself to enjoy the experience rather than have the pressure of asking a question in an accent that would stand out from a mile away, but at least it wasn’t 3,000 miles. If I ever get the chance to be back in that position, you can guarantee I’ll be ready to speak up, but for this time, my first time, I just wanted to enjoy being in their presence and a part of it all.
As Tatum’s presser wrapped up, I thought I had collected all my cool experiences for the night, but the universe provided two more. Leaving the conference room and heading toward the exit, I walked past Tatum in the corridor shoulder-to-shoulder — well, my shoulder to his elbow, but you get the point. I had never been so close to an NBA player, let alone a potential MVP. Inside, I was fanboying hard. On the outside, I was all business (I hope?). The second cool experience on that walk to the exit was catching up with Weiss one final time and having a conversation that shall remain private but meant a lot to me coming from someone as talented as he is.
Fast forward to today. I am back home in the UK, sitting in my makeshift office, re-living this story as I write it out. It still feels like a dream, but at least one that I’m still chasing.
Not once have I ever considered myself to be real media. Sure, I get the press releases and the PR emails and have established some contacts over the years, but I always felt like I was simply playing the part. Still do sometimes. Yet, for that 24-hour period, I was real media, I did live out my dream, and I proved to myself that there is still so much more to come from me.
CelticsBlog made that possible for me with the support of Jeff, Bill, Keith Smith, and Simon Pollock and the amazing work of every member of the writing and podcast teams. They make this blog tick and provide it with the platform for owning such a stellar reputation.
And they helped this 35-year-old Englishman live out his dream for a day — a day that has reinvigorated my drive and shown me a new gear in my pursuit of achieving my end goal. This trip was a dream come true, however, now it’s time to dream bigger. I got here by never giving up, regardless of the size of the task or the countless voices telling me it couldn’t be done. I got here by having people that believe in me and repaying that faith as best I can. And it’s those same people who I have no doubt will help me take that next step when the universe decides the time is right.
My only regret is that my grandma wasn’t here to see me finally achieve something, that she passed away having only ever seen me struggle and grind. I know she was there with me in spirit. And as I write this, I promise to do everything I can to make her, my wife, my daughter, my mom, and everyone who has, does, or will support me proud.
Saturday was one of the proudest moments in my life, a day I hope I can replicate on many more occasions. But you know what they say: The best day of your life hasn’t happened yet. I’m excited to see what that day is and can’t wait for it to come.