By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Cullen on the Celtics

As Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen has been much in the news of late, you may be interested to know that he’s written a Web-only piece on the Celtics.

It’s a smart, historically minded take on how the Celtics morphed from the most racially progressive team in the NBA in the 1960s; to a team so dominated by white stars in the 1980s that it was spurned by African-American youths in Boston (despite the presence of coach K.C. Jones); to the current incarnation, a team that routinely puts five black players on the floor.

Go Celtics!

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  1. MeTheSheeple

    This ran on a section front of the Wall Street Journal today, might be of interest.

  2. Anonymous

    Cullen thinks people under a certain age don’t know this stuff. I have two teenage sons who beg to differ. And they didn’t learn it from me.Cullen is really weak. Do you and him and Keller go out for Miller Lites or something?

  3. O-FISH-L

    While I like Kevin Cullen, I found a portion of this column to be Barnicle-esque. “In 1987, when the Celtics last played for the NBA championship, loads of kids in the city’s African-American neighborhoods wore Lakers jerseys.”Huh? Any links or supporting evidence for this? Does anyone else remember it that way?In fact, I don’t believe the “jersey” phenomenon really took hold until years later. As I recall the 80’s, even Celtics jerseys were scarce among the fandom. Sure, there were the Stop & Shop “Let’s Get it Back Celtics” t-shirts and promotional gear from the State Lottery’s “Green Stuff” campaign, but pro jerseys were few and far between, and that was for the Celtics. To suggest that Roxbury, Mattapan, North Dorchester or any part of Boston was brimming with Lakers jerseys in the 1980’s, or that young Boston blacks engaged in open rebellion against their hometown champs because there was a handful of white stars, seems far-fetched at best, creative fiction at worst.Also, in an age when liberals have been desperately trying to co-opt the word “progressive”, it’s unfortunate that Cullen would use that word in describing the Celtics putting the five best starters [all black] on the court in 1964. Putting the best people in the most important positions, without first considering race, is anathema to liberals. Cullen’s word choice might leave readers thinking otherwise.

  4. Anonymous

    A funny thing happened on the way to print … Cullen’s article showed up on the front page of the Boston Globe print edition today. Notably, every reference to “black” that appeared in the original web version has been changed to “African-American.” Do the Globe editors believe that the word “black” would somehow be perceived as racist? That “African-American” would be more palatable to its readers? The net result is an article that seems far less gritty and vibrant and, surprisingly, less interesting. The toning down of the terminology sapped vitality from the piece. I suspect that Cullen disagreed with the change.-JackB

  5. Anonymous

    Here’s a line from the web version that would surely have caused a stir if it appeared in print: “Today, the Celtics are as black as the Chuck Taylor hightops the great Celtics teams of the 1960s used to wear.” It was replaced with this in the print edition: “Today, the Celtics are a great team whose players happen to be African-American.” Whatever else might be said, the original line is certainly more evocative. But is the original line racist? Debatable. Consider this: In the mid-80s, the Celtics were one of the last NBA teams that could start a competitive all-white lineup: Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, and Jerry Sichting. If someone wrote that the team was “as white as the tennis shoes at Longwood Country Club,” would that be considered a racist comment? -JackB

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: Yes. I remember it exactly that way.

  7. O-FISH-L

    DanReally?$100 to the charity of your choice if you can provide me with evidence of a widespread effort, no, scratch that, ANY EFFORT by 1980’s Boston blacks to root against the Celtics, or wear jerseys for the Lakers, because the Celtics were too white, or anything along those lines.O-FISH-L

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