Celtics celebrate title
By Howard Ulman
BOSTON ó Through a haze of his own cigar smoke, Paul Pierce peered through sleepless eyes at the sea of green-clad fans and thrust his golden MVP trophy skyward.
His day had finally arrived. A day to ride in his own championship parade. A day that gave normal people a chance to wave signs, paint their faces in Celtics colors and scream their hearts out for the latest team to bring a title to town.
iWeíre tired of watching these parades on TV. Now we get to enjoy our own,î Pierce said after a fantastic season that followed nine frustrating ones in his Boston career. iI havenít had any sleep yet, so now Iím still enjoying it.î
The Celtics earned Thursdayís irolling rallyî celebration with an amazing comeback season topped off by a stunningly dominant 131-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NBA finals. Pierce was the series MVP.
It was the Celticsí first title without Red Auerbach, the team patriarch who died in October 2006 after being part of the other 16 championships, nine as coach. The cigars smoked by players and fans were a tribute to Auerbachís custom of lighting one up on the bench in the waning moments of still another win.
iWe wish he could be here,î Pierce said before he lit his cigar on his duck boat, iso Iím doing this to honor him.î
Players rode in the amphibious tourist vehicles like those used by soldiers in World War II. They also transported the New England Patriots after their Super Bowl championships in February of 2002, 2004 and 2005 and the Boston Red Sox after their World Series victories in October 2004 and 2007.
Now it was time for Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and their teammates to travel a nearly two-mile route from TD Banknorth Garden, the arena where the title was won in the teamís 108th game of a grueling season ó 82 of them wins ó to Copley Plaza near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
iWeíve seen plenty of people go through their championship parades,î Allen said, iand never did I think I would be a part of one. Itís great to definitely do it here in Boston.î
Police reported 21 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. But fans had one last chance to enjoy the teamís first title in 22 years and the areaís sixth in 61/2 years.
iWho would have ever thought? Boston. Title town,î said Ryan Stillman, 21, who was born five months after Boston won its last championship on June 8, 1986.
Boston went 66-16 one season after going 24-58, the second worst record in the league.
The mastermind was general manager Danny Ainge, who traded for Garnett and Allen. The field general was coach Doc Rivers. Both let the players absorb the glory.
iAs an executive,î Ainge said before the rally, ithese guys are like my kids.î
All along the route, fans held signs declaring iSweet 17,î the number of Celtics championships, and iHave a Cigar.î
Nick DíAmbrosia, a pennant vendor from Hamden, Conn., said he bought a batch of $7 pennants when Boston won Game 4, hoping to sell them at a Boston victory parade.
iItís better when they havenít won in a long time. Everyone loves a new winner,î he said.
Michael Shaughnessy skipped work to bring his 4-year-old grandson Gavin Carter, a big Garnett fan.
iI like that he gets all the shots and he dunks,î Gavin said, tugging at his own No. 5 jersey while Garnett himself carried the championship trophy on his duck boat.
At the start of the rally, construction workers across Causeway Street from the Garden looked down from openings in a building where windows will go. Other onlookers stood on fire escapes. Confetti cannons shot green and white paper into the air as workers stood by with brooms ready to clear them away once the parade passed.
As the duck boats pulled out of the parking lot, Bob Messina watched in his powder blue Larry Bird No. 33 Indiana State jersey. Now 37, Messina remembers the 1986 celebration at City Hall Plaza.
iI just remember Larry Bird and his curly blond hair,î he said. iIíll never forget it as long as I live. To be here now that Iím a little bit older, I could die a happy man.î
Thursdayís rolling rally didnít make any stops, but fans saw Pierce, Garnett, James Posey, Leon Powe and Sam Cassell chomping on stogies. And they saw 289-pound rookie Glen iBig Babyî Davis travel along the route topless, showing that not all his baby fat was gone.
Meredith Heijl, 20-year-old student from Boston was so excited to see them pass, she broke her green flip flop trying to take Pierceís picture.
iThat was the highlight of my year,î she joked, even though he didnít wave in her direction.
The weather helped the turnout that was 20 to 30 people deep at spots. The Red Sox celebrated in November and the Patriots in February, but the Celtics parade took place under sunny, late-spring skies that allowed the crowd to come out in shorts and T-shirts.
Before the rally, Celtics managing partner Irv Grousbeck unfurled a 2008 championship banner, a replica of the one that will hang from the rafters. iThe first of several, we hope,î he said in a Garden hallway. Rivers commissioned the new banners for owners and players.
Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, Irvís son, got a congratulatory call from President Bush on Wednesday. On Thursday, the younger Grousbeck thanked fans.
iI would say you guys made it happen,î he said. iThere was no way the Lakers could win when they stepped on the floor in Game 6 with the electricity in the building. I know who won the game, and it was actually the fans.î
And a bunch of cigar-puffing, trophy-toting athletes who took one last journey together before a new banner is hung next to the other 16.