For years, I've proclaimed that I'd rather watch the Brewers and Rockies (this was before Colorado was the World Series Rockies and still a 10-games under .500 club) play in April than watch the NBA playoffs.
After the Celtics lost an embarrassing 58 games last season, working for a TV station that covered a team with no future in a league for which I had no respect proved to be an interesting learning experience.
Back with the station again this summer (it's since switched to Comcast Sports Net), I have the opportunity to reflect on just how much more relevance the NBA has in my life now than a year ago.
Last year, FSN hosted a "Draft Lottery Party" at Cleary's Bar in downtown Boston. When the Milwaukee Bucks got the No. 6 pick, it meant the Celtics would get the fifth pick (the lowest pick they possibly could have gotten).
In the 20 dismal seasons since Boston last went to the NBA Finals, which coincidentally coincide with the all but about nine months of my life that not-so-coincidentally had a lot to do with my apathy for professional basketball, the Celtics future had never looked so bleak.
Look how far we've come!
This year, the Draft Lottery took place right before the NBA's best team (66 regular season wins), the Boston Celtics, tipped off Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons.
At the same time, the Boston Red Sox, my Boston Red Sox, the team I hold closest to my heart, were taking on the Kansas City Royals. In past years, I'd scoff at the idea of watching The Association over the Red Sox, but, this year, my TV was acutely tuned to the NBA Playoffs.
I'll definitely attribute some of my growing interest in working for a company that exclusively covers the Celts. But, more so, I attribute it to the ingrained nature of a Boston fan.
Boston fans are loyal to their teams.
- Boston fans stuck with the Red Sox through 86 painful championship-less years.
- Boston fans stuck with the Patriots through a stretch that saw them win nineteen games in five seasons at the start of the 1990s (including a 1-15 and a 2-14 season).
- Boston fans stuck with the Celtics through a twenty-one year championship drought from the NBA's once proudest franchise, a drought which culminated in a 18-game losing streak and 58 losses last season.
- Even Boston's only remaining delinquent child, the Bruins receive support. I'll still attend Bruins games as often as possible, although I compare them to a troubled marriage that I'm fighting through knowing there will be better days.
Boston fans will stick with their team through the thick and the thin, but showing the fans a desire to win will create an endless amount of support. Credit Danny Ainge and the Celtics management for understanding this and finding a way to inspire fans, such as myself, to pay attention to the Celtics again.
It's becoming a common theme in Boston.
It started with the Kraft family building a dynasty in Foxboro, then moved Fenway where the new Red Sox ownership and GM Theo Epstein followed suit. The Red Sox have created such a following among fans that they've tagged their fan and charged admission into "Red Sox Nation;" sold out every game since mid-May 2003 (a year and a half before they broke "The Curse") and are well on their way to setting a major league record for consecutive sellouts early this September; and were mobbed by over three million fans after their 2004 World Championship.
The same thing is happening in the Garden. Everyone in Boston cares about the Celtics now, too.
Needless to say, a multiplying interest in the Celtics, combined with a sports journalist desire to attain a knowledge throughout sports, I've suddenly been introduced a professional basketball league known as the NBA.
I used to view the NBA as a league for spoiled, over-paid, underachieving, and ultimately apathetic punks. The only basketball I'd ever watched was in March, and it was college basketball; the only level of basketball in which I actually believed the players cared about winning.
Wow, how much I've learned about the association over the last year!
May I introduce:
- Kobe Bryant: Once a punk I disdained for cheating on his wife with a 19-year old, now a player I viewed as one of the most awe-inspiring and MVP-deserving players in the league. He uniquely obtains the value to completely take over a game, well, almost uniquely...
- LeBron James: My first round pick in fantasy basketball and always one of my favorite players, but his playoff dominance of Detroit last season was something that I must missed watching someone like the Dodgers play the Braves. I didn't truly appreciate his ability to single handedly lead the Cavs until he pushed the Celts to the limit this May.
- Caron Butler: Speaking of fantasy basketball, not coincidentally, I played in only my second ever league this fall...Butler won the award for highest ranked player (Yahoo's #24 player) that I had never heard of, that certainly was not the case by the end of the year.
- Kendrick Perkins, P.J. Brown, James Posey, and Eddie House: Thank you Celtics! I'd never heard of Perkins or Brown until they played for the Celtics this year. I didn't know anything about Posey, especially not his lockdown defense; and, I thought House was a big man (that's excusable though, who names a little guy "House"!?)
- Kwame Brown: Still a useless piece of junk, but at least I no longer think he's a guard, like I did when he was traded for Pau Gasol. For the record, he's about 6'10".
Gasol turned out to be the missing link in a Lakers team on the verge. That Lakers team will travel to Boston this week for Game One of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
The league's oldest and deepest rivalry is finally renewed. You don't have to be a Celtics supporter to appreciate it; you don't have to be a Lakers supporter to appreciate it; but you do have to be an NBA supporter to appreciate it. If I can appreciate it; and if I can, I'm sure you can too!
Go Celtics! Beat LA!
Please check out my complete blog at http://jtstally.blogspot.com.