The Ultimate Irony In NBA Hoops

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: June 18, 2008

NORTH CAROLINA — After going from worst to first, the 2008 Boston Celtics finished their magical ride by winning the franchise 17th NBA Championship and the first since 1986 by beating the longtime rival Los Angeles Lakers in six games before an excited home crowd in the place they call “Beantown”.

The Celtics did something the Patriots couldn’t do against the Giants in the Super Bowl back in February and that’s win a championship when most fans and media expected them to.

Unlike the Celtic championship teams from the past, this year’s team won the title with unified colors — in jerseys and in race. Unlike the teams in the past with a black coach and a mix of white and black players, this year’s band of champs got the job done with a black coach and mostly black players — especially the players that made the difference.

How ironic in a city who’s past race relations leave a lot to be desired.

From the era of Russell and Cousy; Havlicek and White; to Bird, McHale and Parish (The original “Big 3”), they all can brag about winning titles, but could never boast being an African American dominant team to win a championship with a black coach at the helm.

Russell may have been the winningest Celtic player and K.C. Jones may have been a championship player and coach, but the combination of African Americans achieving the ultimate crown in the “association” was not fullfilled until this season.

Sure there were other storylines that came out of this series. Once again, Phil Jackson is denied his record setting 10th championship as a coach, a record he shares with the late Red Auerbach of the Celtics.

Kobe Bryant doubters and critics will see the Laker loss as another example of his inability to win a championship without Shaquille O’Neal. Teammate Luke Walton trying to beat the team he loved as a kid growing up because his father played and won a title there.

Kevin Garnett finally getting over the hump of losing in the playoffs and being labeled as a player who couldn’t step his game up when it counted.

Paul Pierce, who has been Boston’s first real superstar after the tragedies of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis, suffering through losing seasons and harsh critics only to shine on the big stage.

He carried that same weight for so long on his shoulders, but showed his strength, grit and determination in leading his team to the championship like the captain and warrior he is.

Finally, Glenn “Doc” Rivers, the man under enormous pressure from the Boston media and fans to win and win now. All the questions he endured not about his coaching style or philosophy, but the questions from doubters of his inability to be a coach as the highest level.

Rivers’ kept his belief in his players and in himself to stay the course in the midst of a storm called “Celtic fans” that threatened to wash him away.

We also have to give credit to Danny Ainge for making the moves to bring in the “big two” of the three in Garnett and Ray Allen along with Sam Cassell, P.J. Brown, James Posey and others to give Rivers the ingredients to mix together in making a championship dish for the franchise.

All stories worth discussing around the water coolers of the office after the impressive and dominating performance of this proud group of men in green.

I still however feel a sense of irony after this particular championship for this particular city with this group of men.

A city that most blacks and other minorities who grew up in the area or in the vicinity or happened to move there, travel there or even pass through there, knew about certain parts that were off limits to non-whites especially when the sun went down.

Acts of racial violents, racial slurs and racial intimidation were rampant “back in the day” and to some of my friends back home, still exist. They exist however slightly different.

Instead of white mask and robes, they disguised themselves with black robes and gavels or with badges and guns. Instead of burning crosses on a minoritie’s lawn, they pass laws to oppress or incarcerate minorities at a higher volume than non-whites.

In fairness to Boston and the state of Massachusetts, you can make the same claim for other New England or tri-state places like New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and others nearby.

Massachusetts also has a black Governor, new black and minority leaders in politics and in sports like David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox and of course the “new big three” in Pierce, Garnett and Allen for the world champion Boston Celtics.

So I congratulate guys like Rivers, K.G., Pierce, Ray Allen and the rest of the Celtics that worked hard this year to beat the odds. The improbable journey from basketball mediocrity to the title of “champions” all in one year.

To go from the butt of jokes in Boston, to the respect worthy of royalty from the entire league. More importantly, the success of a group of black men that beat the odds and the doubters by using their intelligence, basketball knowledge, will, determination, faith and belief that we can get it done it.

They worked together as a team in a town that few blacks in the past had the opportunity and success as a group.

In a town full of racial irony, championships are in abundance and the fans of these championship teams have fully embraced all of the players, coaches and franchises with open arms whether the embrace is authentic or temporary.

For those minorities, like the 2008 Boston Celtics, enjoy it while it last because as we know in Boston, cheers can turn to jeers like darkness turns to light and as we know from the past, that could be dangerous in Boston.