By Ron Evangelista, BuhayBasket contributorDuring my awkward growing up stage in the 2000’s, basketball had always always been a staple of our daily television diet like every traditional Filipino household. NBA games were on in the mornings and PBA marquee matchups were on in the evenings.
On extra special days, we would get to witness them live in the arena, where I would be astounded with players defying gravity, time, and space with their dazzling displays of talent.
The sport that Naismith made was a smash hit for me and I was hooked ever since. However, like many adolescents like myself at that time, I never rooted for any specific team and instead, just cheered whichever club was winning.
That all changed in 2007, where I rode the bandwagon for the last time and ultimately endeared myself to the most prestigious and most decorated team in the history of basketball: the Boston Celtics.
This was the legendary team that Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Bob Cousy, and Larry Bird played for. A team that had the most banners in the entirety of the league, and a fanbase that was famous for its loyalty and devotion to the team. This time though, in the offseason after 2007 was one of the worst for the city.
The Celtics had an 18-game losing streak in the previous year, the longest in franchise history. It didn’t help when they lost Red Auerbach that very same year. Boston was down on its knees, and it struck a nerve with Danny Ainge thereby forcing him to revamp the whole roster the very next season, bringing in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen together with Paul Pierce. The Big 3 was then formed and they were coming for anyone and everyone in the league.
Witnessing two superstars join with another in one team was too enticing for me to not be a fan of, and I hopped right in. I was going to support this team for this season and see where it was going to take me.
As every game passed, my fondness grew and grew. The grit of this team was second to none and they meshed as quickly as any team can dream of. This was the first team in my life that I waited for and watched every playoff game, up until the finals and the championship celebration. I never imagined it, but this team has made its mark on me, like a kid picking and buying the best toy from the shelves of Toys R’ Us.
I was now bleeding green and beaming with Celtic pride and I was loving every minute of it.
Unfortunately, the following seasons would have Boston facing multiple tribulations, losing Kevin Garnett the next season due to injury, thus being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. They would never again taste another ring. Ray Allen left in 2012, and I was at odds on who to support since he was my favorite player.
Then some time later, the remaining members of the Big 3 were dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for top picks, indicating that the team was on a rebuild. The team that I loved was now completely different. It felt like my heart was torn out of my chest and it seemed like it may never be the same again after this.
But one day it hit me. You just don’t switch teams when your ball club isn’t competitive anymore. When your pet dog doesn’t respond to your orders and doesn’t learn new tricks, you don’t abandon him on the sidewalk. You still care and love him the way parents care for their children. When teachers have disappointing students, they are saddened but they never lose hope for the kid.
So why would I lose hope in a team that was, technically, my first love in the NBA?
Patience was a virtue and recently, the horizon began to shine as the evil genius Danny Ainge started to collect asset after asset and ultimately formed a new Big 3 in Boston, and a young and up-and-coming mentor in Brad Stevens.
Still, problems would arise as Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving are out for the season with injuries that hampered this team throughout the season. The difference this time was I wasn’t contemplating on leaving anymore. This was a team and a culture that incorporated itself to me, and it would be nothing short of foolish to ride another bandwagon.
Now the Celtics are unexpectedly in the Eastern Conference Finals with a depleted line-up, the best coach in the NBA, and a future that’s brighter than the sun shining on a hot summer noon in the middle of the Sahara Desert. The wait was worth it and now, Beantown is regaining its stronghold in basketball.
Unlike Los Angeles, Boston is a city that is described as cold, indifferent, and insensible to some folks. Once you step inside The TD Garden though, Boston is the best sports city in the entire world, bar none.
As for me, I’ll still be screaming these Big 3 words every time I see my team on TV: “Let’s go Celtics!”
[videos from YouTube; thumbnail from NBA]