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

What a game! What a season!

And to think that this year’s Celtics were Plan B, put together by Danny Ainge after he lost out on the first pick in the draft.

What can I say? As a casual basketfall fan, I did not suffer through the Celtics’ 22-year drought. Mostly I just ignored them. But I certainly enjoyed their playoff run, especially last night’s dismantling of the Lakers. It wasn’t just victory for the home team, but the culmination of several dramatic story lines: redemption after all these years; the triumph of character; and the defeat of a team of gutless crybabies led by a truly loathsome egomaniac.

The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan writes:

So they’ve done it. They have claimed the honor of having the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history. One year ago today, the franchise could accurately be described as forlorn. The Celtics were coming off a 24-58 season punctuated by an 18-game losing streak. They had been cruelly treated by the draft lottery, which left them with nothing better than the fifth pick.

And now they are champions. Again.

Lordy, Lordy, what hath Danny and Doc wrought?

The Celtics were obviously a better team than the Lakers. I suspect the Hawks, the Cavaliers and the Pistons would have beaten them, too. It wasn’t so much that the heavily favored Lakers lost as the Celtics won, with the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen playing as hard and as selflessly as Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. We shouldn’t take away a thing from what they accomplished.

Still, watching the Lakers fold like a cheap suit was part of the fun, don’t you think? You’ve got to love the headline on Bill Plaschke’s column in the Los Angeles Times this morning: “MVP? More like MIA.” And no, I hadn’t realized until I read Plaschke that the Celtics fans were chanting “You’re not Jordan!” at Kobe Bryant. How great is that?

No, he’s not. Before the Bulls started winning one championship after another, Michael Jordan found ways to ennoble himself even in defeat. Bryant, on the other hand, disappeared after the first quarter in every game that mattered. Check this out, from LA Times columnist T.J. Simers:

They are an embarrassment. They went into the NBA Finals favored, the Celtics suffering injuries to several of their starters along the way, and still the Lakers could not measure up.

The Lakers had a 24-point lead at home, the best coach and player on their side, and they gagged.

Their greatest claim in the NBA Finals is the fact the Celtics didn’t clinch the title in Staples Center, the Lakers’ closing mantra: “Not in our house,” and how pitiful is that?

They should have been going to Boston in Games 6 and 7 with the chance to win one game and win it all, but instead they only proved they aren’t anywhere as good as the Celtics and certainly nowhere near as tough.

Great as the 1980s team was, it was never exactly a surprise when they won. They were large, deep and talented. This team is talented, too, but they made me think a little bit of the Dave Cowens-led Celtics of the ’70s: underdogs, winning through sheer force of will. Or the great Bill Russell, toward the end of his career, outdueling the taller, younger and more physically gifted Wilt Chamberlain. Wonderful.

And has anyone ever deserved to win more than Pierce, Garnett and Allen?

File photo (cc) by Lorianne DiSabato and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. mike_b1

    Many disappointments from the LA writers, who showed that in defeat they could be as poor sports as their brethren on the East Coast.And throughout the postseason, I read nary a word about basketball in the pages of the Globe. It was all hype, writers jousting with writers, writers jousting with players, idle speculation … You could change the name “Celtics” to “Red Sox” or “Patriots” and do likewise with the players and have essentially the same reads.

  2. Anonymous

    As bad as the defeat was, I was surprised by the vitriol of the LA sportswriters. I usually enjoy reading the crying and teeth-gnashing of the opposition press when one of the Boston teams win, but I though today’s LA Times showed that a lot of sportswriters in that town haven’t gotten over Shaq’s being pushed out and still want to trash Kobe. The team had a bad game on a night when it needed a good one. But that’s about where the analysis begins and ends. The Celtics beat the Lakers in the regular season and they beat them in the Finals. No big surprise, especially with the Lakers’ center out. As a fan, I love the fact that the Celts will hang their first banner in the new garden. But as a journalist, I think the LA Times writers are just grinding an old ax.

  3. Steve

    The scars of October ’86 run deep. With 3 minutes to go in the 3rd, up by 30, I turned to my wife and said “The game’s still in doubt, right?” She said “absolutely”.Somehow I never caught on to how good the Celtics were this year. I figured all the good teams were really in the West (as in previous years). Even when we went west and won, I was thinking it was just a small sample size.This team reminds me more of the Detroit teams of the ’80s (substituting a classy Garnett for a classless Laimbeer, of course) than the 80s Celtics. Their defense is just relentless.Rondo is the real deal. The one amazing part of his game is his *rebounding* – he always seems to be in the right place. It’s going to be a real treat to watch him over the next decade.If this team stays healthy and the Lakers get healthy and don’t let this loss make them implode, we might have a repeat of the mid-80s rivalry. The Lakers will be monsters when Bynam comes back (if he stays healthy). Maybe this series gave them an inkling of how tough they’re going to have to be.Nice season, Celtics. You showed grit, determination, talent and class. You’re the complete package.

  4. Anonymous

    My favorite headline from an LA Times column on Koby: “MVP? More like MIA.” Ouch.

  5. Rick in Duxbury

    I take some comfort from the fact that Spike Lee’s evening was probably ruined…..

  6. Peter Porcupine

    Rondo is Tiny Archibald!Garnett is Parrish!We have a TEAM now!Watched the Celts for the last fifteen years was like watching an old flame turn to drink – and one day, there they are, panhandling on the Berkley St. sidewalk. You slow down, but you don’t stop, and you drive on, wondering how the love of your life wound up at the Pine St. Inn….And while you may STILL be waiting for training camp to begin in Foxboro – at least NOW, there’s a team worth watching in the springtime, too.

  7. BosPhotog

    Too bad the city fumbled the ball on the parade route. It would have been more meaningful had the parade route started or ended at the Reggie Lewis Center. Would have been nice for all and a classy symbolic gesture. My parade route would have started at the Reggie Lewis Center and rolled past police headquarters, taken a left onto Mass ave and then a right at Boylston st. ending at Gov Ctr.

  8. Steve

    rick in dux – Spike Lee is a Knicks fan, so his DECADE is already ruined. 🙂

  9. mike_b1

    Steve, I thought of that too, then I figured that rick meant that since the Knicks and C’s are rivals, Spike would rather see the Lake top the C’s.Silly men. Don’t they realize Man Beats Nature?

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Mike and Steve: I believe Rick was referring to the fact that Lee actually said he was rooting for the Lakers. See this.

  11. Steve

    Thanks, Dan. I especially liked Ray Allen’s reaction: “But Spike and I talk regularly. I’ll call Spike up and just have a conversation with him.” I bet he will. :-)I hope Spike gets some heat for this on the Vineyard this summer. But I guess I can understand not rooting for Boston. Growing up as a Knick fan in the 60s, playing the Celtics was just so *frustrating*! It was Yankees-Red Sox in reverse.It’s good to know the rivalry still inspires deep feeling, even after years of mediocrity by both the Knicks and Celts.

  12. Rick in Duxbury

    Righto, DK. (Let’s just say that Spike has never been a big Boston booster. Somehow, our racists are always worse than those elsewhere and it’s still 1974. Go figure.)

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