At each and every Celtics game at TD Garden – usually early in the second quarter – a member of the Boston community who has made some sort of positive impact is recognized as a “Hero Among Us.”
First established in 1997, the Hero Among Us program typically highlights someone who saved a life, started a charity, or made some other philanthropic contribution. Normally, the timeout break brings someone the fanbase has never heard of to center court and provides a poignant moment to showcase a good deed.
Last night, the Hero Among Us award went to the most popular guy in the building: Marcus Smart. In his first return to TD Garden since being traded to Memphis in June, Smart was recognized for all of his off-the-court contributions, which include regularly spending time with kids battling cancer at the Boston Children’s Hospital, launching the YounGameChanger Foundation for inner-city student athletes, and donating dozens of entertainment hubs – known as ‘Smart Carts’ – to hospitals in the Greater Boston Area.
Marcus Smart was recognized as tonight's Hero Among Us for his constant dedication to helping others pic.twitter.com/JBDlWRcNdV— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) February 5, 2024
Marcus Smart’s support for pediatric cancer patients was detailed extensively in an Athletic piece by Jared Weiss in October of 2022. Smart, who lost both his brother Todd and mother Camellia to cancer, used his first-hand pain and suffering to uplift kids and families stuck in hospitals themselves.
Before the game, Smart spoke about what it meant for him to be recognized as the February 4th Hero Among Us.
“It’ll be an honor. It’ll be a big honor for me,” he said. “I pride myself on being more than just a basketball player. Being here in this city of Boston has really opened that field for me to really show who I am as a person. The things I do off the court really show that. To be honored with that prestigious award here will definitely be an honor to me. I’m looking forward to it.”
Marcus Smart is recognized as tonight’s Hero Among Us, for all his community work in Boston. pic.twitter.com/zqGLPsp4lC— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) February 4, 2024
The Hero Among Us tribute, and subsequent standing ovation, was one of many Smart received throughout the night. Earlier, the Garden streamed his on-court highlights, which largely entailed diving on loose balls, drawing charges, and blocking shots – making the type of energy plays that made him a fan favorite in Boston.
While he no longer resides in Boston, his charity continues to thrive here. At the same time, Smart has begun to get integrated in the Memphis community as well.
“It was critical for me to hit the ground running in Memphis, just for the simple fact that’s who I am,” Smart said before the game. “I built a legacy out here in Boston, and I wanted to live up to that name, the Young Game Changer. I wanted to continue to change lives in a multitude of ways, and one of the best ways I know is with my personality, me being me, helping in any way I can, giving my service and my time.”