|Posted by GeeZeeCeltics on May 4, 2013 at 2:30 PM|
For most people, the insanity is alien. They can't understand our fire for this team, for the game of basketball - isn't an addiction so great that it makes one get up at crazy times at night just to watch a group of guys play basketball on a different continent somewhat silly? It seems so to many, and people accept it just as a quirk.
Yet it goes far beyond that. Those of us who have been blessed enough to get to watch the Boston Celtics during the KG/Pierce era realize something that goes far beyond just basketball. In a way, the game of basketball mirrors life. Again, it may seem silly when said just like that - how can a game really reflect something as serious as life as a whole? - but it isn't. You can discover a lot about a person from how he plays the game, how seriously he takes it, to what lengths he goes to play it. You can tell right away if a person is selfish or unselfish by how he controls the ball and what shots he chooses, you can see if he's a team player or not. You can see if he'll put in the extra effort by watching how he goes for loose balls that are about to go out of bounds. Details like that uncover the person that is under the player.
Let me take you through a personal story of mine that has never really been told before.
I first started following basketball seriously in 2007, when I was in 7th grade and just 12 years old (God, that seems so long ago). I was searching for a personality back then, like most young kids do during that time. I was very lucky when I chose to follow the Celtics, because what they did to me completely overhauled who I was and how I approach life. Without shame, I can say that I was a selfish hypocrite back in the day - I would preach the team game but I would always love to take the tough shots, the scoop layups and make the flashy plays, all that while keeping the ball away from my teammates. Keep in mind what I said about the life analogy - I also ended up the same as a person at that time, much as I didn't like to admit it. But as I started following the Celtics more and more, I started learning.
I was taught that flashiness is not what brings you wins. The Garnett-Pierce Celtics showed me over the years that trust, toughness, resilience, grit and hard work is the way to glory. The countless heavyweight tilts, the battles they withstood together, the dynasty they built through Ubuntu - it was all nothing short of amazing. So I unconsciously started to adopt that, mold myself by that. I became a mini-KG: a person obsessed with winning. I wanted to learn the blueprint for success that the Celtics had laid out for themselves so beautifully.
Time passed by quickly, and I had grown up next to the Garnett/Pierce Celtics. It was good when they were winning - even if they couldn't win a championship after 2008, they were still perennial contenders, and I could hang my hat on that. If I kept playing and living like them, I'd be a winner. But Father Time is undefeated. I saw KG and Pierce age before my eyes, their ability, however still amazing, shrinking together with title dreams. And for the first time I realized the mortality of this team - that they would not always win like this. Even if all 30 teams were equal, there would still only be a 1/30 chance to win it all. In reality, it takes a lot of factors that are ultimately out of your control. A somber realization.
And still the Celtics, finding themselves on the wrong side of the fortune necessary to win it all, would find a way to teach me another lesson despite that. Injured, battered, bruised and with an aging core unable to singlehandedly carry a whole team AND down 0-3 to the Knicks in a series fought to 4 wins. Everyone was sure of their demise. No team had ever come back from that deficit in NBA history. KG and Pierce were old, the team too injury riddled to do anything about the situation they were in.
But they would not give in. Those wily, old veterans, Pierce and Garnett - they would refuse to give up. It was a futile thing to do, but they just wouldn't. They won one game, and then another - giving hope to a fanbase desperately in need of that - and then refused to lay down one more time, down 26 points in the fourth quarter of what turned out to be the last game of the season. I cannot imagine any other group of people that wouldn't give in at that point. They had spent so much energy, but they found more from hell knows where and put together a run that shook the entire building, storming back to within four. It was inspiring in it's defiance. Perhaps more inspiring than anything else they showed before. It was an amazing lesson, the strongest of them all - that if you stay the course, if you stay who you are and if you just blindly believe, you will find a way to perform far outside of your abilities. And even if you come up short... you will go out with a bang.
And so I sit here, unsure what to think now. I am honestly close to sobbing, because I understand it more clearly than I have ever understood it before: these life lessons are finite, the basketball lives of my idols - mortal. At some point, those men I grew up alongside whilst never meeting them will ride in the sunset, leaving me alone to deal with questions I sometimes struggle to answer. If not this year, then rather soon after.
I don't know if this is it, but I still find it appropriate to voice my thanks right now. Without Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers, I am not who I am today. I am not mini-KG, the man who wants to win wherever he goes and the man of a burning passion. Those without a passion will not be able to fully understand what I feel, and those who have a similar passion will understand to an extent. But only those of us who truly bleed green and grew up with the Ubuntu Celtics will really identify with these feelings.
It may not be the last ride, and I hope it isn't. But I still want to thank those three men for being an inspiration transcendent of basketball. I have no idea who I'd be without them, honestly.
Long live Doc Rivers. Long live Paul Pierce.
Long live Kevin Garnett.