10 years ago, the Celtics were coming off a horrific 25-57 season. You see, it was the first season of the post Big 3 trade to the Nets, with a roster that looked like this
Your classic Stage 1 of a rebuild-type roster. Kids nowadays don't even know what this shit was like to live through. They get upset online nowadays when the Celtics lose 4 times in a month. No chance they could handle the gutter like this.
The only other time the Celts had been this bad was the 24-58 tanking season before the Big 3 trade in 2006-07, and then in 1998-99 when "he who shall not be named" was the head coach. These types of seasons weren't exactly all that common for this franchise.
What came with the 2013-14 season was the 6th overall pick in the NBA Draft. Little did we know what was in store
From this moment on, the Celtics would never miss the playoffs again.
Over the course of my life, I've seen plenty of players get drafted by the Celtics. Some leave a mark, but most come and go. What's unique is when you find a player that not only makes a winning impact on the floor, but is also someone who fully embraces being a Celtic and the city of Boston. When that happens, it creates a special bond between the player and the fanbase.
When I think of Marcus Smart's tenure as a Celtic, that's what I think of most. Bill Russell said it best
"I always said when I left the Celtics, I could not go to heaven, because that would be a step down. I am pure 100 percent Celtic. I think if you slashed my wrists, my blood would've been green."
The same is true for Marcus Smart. One of the most polarizing players the team has maybe ever had, you can debate how good he was or how much he sucked. You can argue over his impact and all that shit. But what you cannot argue is how he embraced being a Boston Celtic.
What also made his tenure so special was his connection to the city. It wasn't only that he openly took pride and embraced being a Celtic, it was also the fact that during his entire time in Boston Smart made a tangible impact on the community. He was as much a fabric of the city as anyone else, when he didn't have to be.
To put it simply, Marcus Smart was a great Celtic.
581 regular season games, 108 playoff games, both filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The Marcus Smart Experience is truly unlike anything you've ever experienced before, and it certainly isn't for the faint of heart.
Was he perfect? Of course not. Are there some out there that still hate him like poison? Of course. But when you think of the highest of highs (and lows) this team has had since 2014, he's often right in the middle of a whole bunch.
Today is about celebrating one of the best Celtics of this current era. Notice I did not say best players. I said best Celtics. While it's extremely rare in today's NBA, part of me did always think Smart would be a Celtic forever, or at least make it to Year 15 like Pierce did. That's probably why the trade bomb this past June felt like a shotgun blast to the chest in real time. I don't care what team he plays for from here on out, to my brain he will always be a Celtic.
And I'm sure there will be some out there that take today as another opportunity to slander him, call him overrated and scream about how much better the Celtics are now that he's gone etc. That's whatever. Let the weirdos be weirdos.
From my perspective, it's going to be weird as fuck during that first timeout once the tribute video starts and the standing ovation begins. It's going to be emotional as hell, just like it was when Paul/KG made their first return, and just like it was when Isaiah made his
There's just something different when these types of players make their first return to the Garden. The ones who won at a high level while also having a real connection to the city, the fanbase, and the franchise. That's what is on deck again today.
And look, it's possible to be excited about this year's team and roster and still have an appreciation for a player who was pretty fucking good while he wore this jersey for 9 seasons. I mean Smart was on this team for 25% of my entire life. It doesn't have to be a big deal to you, but it is for me and a whole lot of Celts fans. This was our guy.
Ultimately, today is truly the fanbase's first opportunity to say thank you, and my guess is there won't be a dry eye in the house while it happens.
I think this already goes without saying, but I wouldn't plan on seeing 36 in the rafters. Had the Celts won the 2022 title you could make a case, but unfortunately Steph Curry exists. What an asshole to rob us all of that moment.