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The Boston Celtics Are Not A Basketball Team, They Are A Way Of Life

Joe Murphy. Getty Images.

"The Boston Celtics are not a basketball team, they are a way of life." - Red Auerbach

As we sit here on the eve of the NBA Finals, there are still parts of me that can't believe it's really happening. In my entire existence on this planet, tomorrow will mark only the 4th time I've ever seen my favorite basketball team play for the Larry O'Brien trophy. If the last 37 years have taught me anything when it comes to this team and this opportunity, it's that you can never, ever take a season like this for granted because they come few and far between. With no guarantees in life and in basketball, I advise everyone to take a step back and truly appreciate the position the Celts currently find themselves in.

I know most fanbases outside of New England don't want to hear it or may roll their eyes in disgust, but when it comes to this city, and this team, things are just different. It might be one of those things you can only truly understand if you live it. Every fanbase is excited when their team makes the Finals and a championship is the goal of every franchise, but there is just something different when it comes to the Boston Celtics.

I think back to how I was raised. When you are born into a basketball obsessed family from Worcester, MA, your blood is already green. For me, that is where my sickness began. At birth. 

My bedtime stories weren't Green Eggs and Ham, but instead were about the time Havlichek stole the ball. While others may have enjoyed The Cat In The Hat, I preferred the tales of Bill Russell and fellow Worcester legend Bob Cousy. Growing up I wasn't really allowed to watch TV after dinner/homework (the 90s were weird), unless it was the Celtics. My summers consisted of being starstruck by David Wesley and going to Brandeis University for the Red Auerbach camps. 

Everything I would be taught about the game of basketball (and life) came via the teachings of Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, with a little bit of Tommy Heinsohn mixed in

My entire life I would go into the Garden and look up at the rafters and see all those banners, wondering if there would ever be a time that I would see a Celtics title with my own eyes. You see, I'm from the Dark Era of Celtics history. I was molded by the pain and ineptitude of a team that could barely win 35 games year after year after year. I simply couldn't relate to the stories of Celtics dominance that had been the soundtrack of my life. Until you've spent time convincing yourself that Vitaly Potapenko was the key to finally winning a title, I'm afraid we are not the same.

When you root for a team with the type of success and history that the Celtics have, the standards are different. You hear it all the time right? The only thing the Celtics hang are championship banners. That's it. No division banners, no conference title banners, no embarrassing IST banners next to title banners you didn't even win as the same team that you hang because you're insecure, none of that shit.

The only thing that matters is this

Brian Babineau. Getty Images.

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In some ways, that's both a blessing and a curse. It can force you to overlook what you see along the journey to a title because the only thing that matters is finishing the job (hello, 2024 season). What might be a great season for 29 other franchises in the league is a failure for the Celtics if they don't win the whole thing, and nobody knows that more than any Celtics fan in their mid-to late 30s. All we've known is failure….except for that one time in 2008. People often wonder why Celts fans still obsess over that one title, and any time I hear stuff like that I have to remind myself that those people just don't get it. They don't understand what it meant for Celts fans of my generation. 

It finally, after decades, allowed us to be part of the club we've heard about our entire lives. Finally, when we would look up to the rafters and see all those banners, at long last we had one of our own that would be there for the rest of time. 

Which brings me to the 2024 NBA Finals. 

Once again, the Celtics have the opportunity to add to that picture above. They have the chance to cement themselves as one of the greatest teams in both Celtics history and NBA history (fact, not opinion). Legacies are legitimately on the line. They've gone through the heartache, the failure, the pain of coming up short. Much like us 90s kids, this team was molded by the darkness. For me, that's what makes this specific Finals run so special. The 2008 team broke the drought and allowed us into the club. But a 2024 title? Given the historically dominant season this team has had? That's another level. That's the type of rare air that I would dream about as a kid. 

At no point did I ever think we'd live in a world where uttering the words "one of the greatest Celtics teams ever" was a real possibility, yet here we are. What a title would do for this generation of Celts players and fans is exactly what it did for everyone back in 2008. It's validation. You're stamped, forever. This is it, this is what the whole current era has been about. Winning Banner 18 and cementing yourself as Celtics legends for the rest of time.

So while we make it through these last 24+ hours until Game 1 starts, take some time to reflect on what is happening. As I always say, perspective is important. After the heartbreak that was the 2022 Finals, the Celtics have earned their shot at redemption. They have now reached the moment that the entire season has been about, and history is now at their fingertips.

Now all that's left to do is finish the job.

Let us pray.