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#36 to the rafters

I am a Smart man and I know what love and trust is.

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(Boston, MA, 02/11/15) Fans celebrate Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart’s 3 -pointer in the fourth quarter of the NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks at the TD Garden on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Staff Photo by Matt Stone Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

For the last couple of weeks, my wife and I have been reading a lot of mythology to my son at bedtime. Whether it was classic Greek epics or comic books, we’ve filled his head with stories about heroes and their bravery and courage. And on the night he was traded away from Boston after nine beloved years, I told him about Marcus Smart.

Somewhere between Hercules and He-Man stood tall the longest tenured Celtic in the Brad Stevens era. I captivated my nine-year-old with stories about Smart hustling for Tommy Points, the timely defensive plays that shifted momentum, and hitting clutch shots whenever his team desperately needed him — Marcus Smart making Marcus Smart plays. He giggled with joy watching the quick, cobra-strike steals and general reckless abandon Smart played with. Admittedly, it’s been hard getting him to fall in love with basketball like I did as a kid because he’s always seen it as “dad’s work,” but he really sparked to Smart’s unrelenting style of play and audacity to seemingly strike down basketball giants with just a sling.

And then I told him about how Smart lost his brother and mother to cancer and still always visits sick kids at Boston Children’s Hospital and how he’s dedicated his YounGameChanger Foundation to help underprivileged children and their communities.

A hero indeed.

But the truth is, Smart wasn’t superhuman. Smart wasn’t infallible. On the contrary, it might have been his humanity and humility that made me root for him so hard. He wasn’t perfect. He was never the best player on the floor, but he always left everything on it. He never shrank in the moment, was never afraid of a shot or a defensive assignment. He feared nothing and yet, it never felt like overconfidence. Smart just always showed up if there was a job to do, no matter the odds. The quote on his Twitter profile says it best: “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

His critics might suggest that Smart’s bravado and tendency to try and do too much was his failing. His defensive prowess and basketball IQ were cheapened by his theatrical flopping. The no-no-NO three pointers outnumbered the no-no-YESSES. They would label it as hubris, but this isn’t Achilles refusing to go to battle or Icarus flying too close to the sun.

It was Celtic Pride.

Those two words together can be difficult to describe. In my forty years as a fan, Celtic Pride has meant so many things. It’s synonymous with winning for sure. Smart did plenty of that in his nine seasons, making winning play after winning play after winning play. Celtic Pride means embracing Boston and being fiercely loyal to the fans. He’s lived on the corner of Love and Trust for his entire career. But to my son, I wanted to impart what Smart truly embodied when I talk about Celtics Pride. To me, what made Smart special was his deduction to always giving more than he had.

In his last two seasons with the Celtics — after he outlasted All-Stars and MVP candidates to finally become the starting point guard — Smart played with a controlled reserve that seemed uncharacteristic to his younger days, a more calculating version of the blue collar madman that endeared himself to the city. That more mature approach led to a Defensive Player of the Year award and culminated in his first trip to the NBA Finals.

But every so often, he touched the stars when he had to. In his final signature game, Smart poured in 22 points and seven assists in a must-win Game 6 against the 76ers. He was measured as the team’s PG, knowing when to push the pace or slow things down. He was in Jayson Tatum’s ear after JT missed his first eleven shots but closed with four 3s to force a Game 7. It was indicative of how much Smart had grown over the years.

But then there were those quintessential Smart plays that makes him who he is: wrestling with Joel Embiid in the post, driving against bigger defenders and bullying them in the paint, ripping the rock away from would-be ball handlers. It was Smart at his finest -- a mere mortal doing superhuman things.

Unfortunately, in the end, it wasn’t enough. On Wednesday night, Smart was dealt for, well, ironically, a unicorn, a mythical creature, but we’ll save that trade analysis for later.

For now, the lesson I want to pass on to my son is that anybody can be a hero. Yes, far too often our heroes cannot escape their fate, especially in this cruel business of basketball. But be like Smart anyway. After you’ve done everything you can, do more. Floor burns and broken bones will heal. Put absolutely everything on the line if it’s something you care about. And if you're lucky enough to have extra blessings in your life, be generous. Be overly generous with your time and fortune when you can.

That's what my hero does.

We’ll miss you, Marcus. Thank you for everything. Love and trust forever.

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