Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The story of a basketball team and the girl who loved them.

I grew up in a basketball household. My dad loves the game and played in high school and college (Cal Tech and UC-Riverside). He had high hopes for his three tall, moderately athletic daughters. He took us to the park and had us shoot free throws. He sent us to boy's basketball camp. (Note to parents: never do this to your 12 year old daughter who has braces, a mullet, and stick legs.) Unfortunately, we are all inexplicably terrible at the sport of basketball. But we still loved watching it. Specifically, watching the Boston Celtics. Larry, the Chief, McHale, DJ, Ainge, KC Jones, Red, etc. We used to gather around the tv in the den while our parakeets chirped like mad because they liked the sound of the squeaking sneakers on the parquet. A couple of times a year, we all headed in to the Garden, the hot, steamy old Garden and watched from our rickety obstructed view seats, ducking down to see the court around whatever overhang or pole was in the way. Sometimes, come playoff time, I couldn't even watch the end of close games. I'd leave the room because my heart felt like it was going to explode in my chest.

As I got older, the Celtics weren't a dominant force in the NBA anymore, but I still loved watching them. Players came and went, sometimes tragically. Paul Pierce joined the team in 1998, breathing new life into the franchise. I watched him and Antoine Walker advance two rounds in the 2002 playoffs by sheer heart alone. After that, there were a few dark years. I admit that I didn't like the way Danny Ainge was running things. Jim O'Brien was one of my favorite coaches, and Ainge pushed him out of town. I also didn't like the fact that he blew up that successful 2002 squad to bring in young, unproven players. But that's water under the bridge now. I still watched them, I still cheered for them, and I still went to games. I also kept following some of my favorite players on other NBA teams, like Kevin Garnett. He first showed up on my radar when I tuned in to the 2003 All-Star game. KG was the MVP of that game, scoring 37 points and playing like a fucking madman. Players aren't supposed to try their hardest in all star games, but that's the essence of Kevin Garnett. He always plays his hardest, no matter what the circumstances.

This summer, things started happening. The Celtics traded for Ray Allen. I liked the move. A month later, they acquired KG. I was ecstatic. When tickets went on sale, I bought a 12 pack. For cost reasons, I needed to find someone to with whom to share it, and after all of my friends who live in the city of Boston and claim to be sports fans said no (and you know who you are. feel the shame. feel it!), I contacted my high school friend Dennis, who lives an hour outside the city but absolutely loves the Celtics. He had also been going to games this whole time, as evidenced by past emails saying things like "Hey, my dad saw you and your sister on the Jumbotron." I believed that the new Celtics were going to be the best team in the East, and perhaps in the entire NBA. And I was right. When they made the playoffs, Dennis and I had the option to purchase one round of playoff tickets. We chose the finals.

Now, onto last was absolutely amazing. Dennis and I headed in early, and got to our seats around 8:15. Very few people had arrived, so we sort of sat there for a while soaking it all in, and then I went to meet my friend Jen who was at the game with her fiance. The Garden was filling up. Green, white, everywhere. The good part about sitting in the balcony is that there are only real fans up there. Not corporate guys who came in their button-downs only so they could tell everyone that they went to the NBA finals. Celtics fans. Families, couples, old friends, gathered together to watch their favorite team compete for a championship. All of the people who were sitting near us in Game 1 were in their same seats. The Garden was getting louder and louder. The chants started. "Let's Go Celtics!" and "Beat L.A.!" Screaming, clapping, jumping, shouting. The team was introduced. The anthem was sung. The crowd was whipped into a pure frenzy. There was no way the Celtics were losing this game.

The whole thing is sort of a blur, impossible to describe, and I'm sure most of you watched it on tv. The game started out fairly even. Kobe hit some big shots in the first quarter. The Celtics remained poised. Notably, Rajon Rondo, who had looked tentative in previous games, poked and prodded and stole the ball over and over and over and went to the basket. It seems like throughout the playoffs, the wins were the result of one player (usually Paul Pierce) having a huge night. Did you ever wonder what would have happened if all of the Celtics, the Big 3 and the bench, all had their huge nights on the exact same night? Well, now we know, and it's called a blowout. They made the Lakers look like a JV squad. Over and over, the Celtics got stops on defense- stealing the ball, pressuring, forcing a turnover or a rushed shot- only to storm down the other end of the court and score. And the crowd ate it up. At one point in the second quarter, Paul Pierce hit a shot and the Lakers called time out. A "Beat L.A." chant rose up from the crowd. Louder, and louder, and louder. The building shook. I honestly have never heard such a thing in my life. At that moment, everyone knew what was happening. The Celtics were going to win their 17th NBA Championship, and we were all going to be there to see it. The Celtics never looked back, continued to play tough defense and to score, score, score again. Every single player except Sam Cassell (I think it was the only time I actually wanted Doc to put him in!) contributed on the court. Pierce went to the line, invoking MVP chants from the crowd. Meanwhile, Kobe headed to the bench. The clock ticked down, but the Celtics didn't slow down. Soon enough, it was Gino time. Even Paul Pierce started dancing when the don of disco appeared on the screen. Celtics win 131-92. Confetti. Celebration. Trophy. Championship.


Some pictures. Unfortunately, my camera battery ran out during the game, so I'll post some more once Dennis sends me his.


Eri said...

Beautiful post Eileen! What a night, what an experience. I wish I could have been there. GO Cs!!!!

eileen said...

Yeah, it was great. I'm still flying high just thinking about it!

Oh, after they gave out the trophies, we went down to the floor. Fans everywhere were smoking cigars. I stood on a folding chair to get a better look, and it flipped closed and I fell down. I felt like a dumbass until I saw the exact same thing happen to like 8 other people.

Way to go, CELTICS!

Briana said...

E- The post-game celebration looked incredible. Way to pick the right tickets!

Even though I felt like they shouldn't have been shoving the mike in his face, KG's reaction to winning actually made me well up a little. He looked so happy. That was nice to see. Cause (not to rain on the parade) sometimes the NBA feels way too commercial.

You should try to track down the footage.


Kim said...

Great recap! I'm so happy you guys got to go and see them win! It's good pay back for your loyalty :)

Anonymous said...

So cool! Sounds like it was awesome!

BTW, where was my reminder about Mom's birthday???? ARG!!!!!!!!!!!!!


eileen said...

Kerry, you forgot Mom's birthday?!? Oh no! Good thing you produced the grandkids...she'll probably forgive you :)

eileen said...

Oh yeah, Bri, I saw a clip of KG's interview with Michelle Tafoya and I loved it- he sounds like a lunatic, but I mean that in a good way. And I love how he busts out with "You look good tonight, girl." in the middle of it.

Sue said...

Eileen! You gave an amazing recap of the game!! Thank you for sharing your experience - I felt like I was there.. rather than watching it from my tv. Awesome!!!! Have fun at the parade!!

Kevin said...

Your dad went to Cal Tech for HS??

eileen said...

yeah, he's wicked smart!
no, he transfered from Cal Tech to UC-R.