Well, in 1957, Boston had not won a world championship in any sport since 1918, and that was the Red Sox in the early days of baseball.
We had pretty much grown accustomed to getting close – but no cigar. But legendary Coach Red Auerbach changed all that. When Red lit up his victory cigar on the Celtics bench, it was like the torch on the Statue of Liberty had finally been lit.
I was a Celtics bellboy at the time and stationed within ten yards of the team’s bench. Even the Boston Garden security ushers, who were supposed to keep the crowds from rushing out on to the court when the game ended, couldn’t control themselves and helped carry Bob Cousy off the court.
The “city of immigrants” finally had something to celebrate. We weren’t watching a professional basketball game on television from Minneapolis, Ft. Wayne, Syracuse, or Rochester. It was right here in Boston.
I could tell that my new lawyer friend was probably thinking to himself, that Flynn was all worked up over this latest championship.
“Did it change the city?” he asked. “No, it doesn’t change the city. It changes the people,” I answered.
“Boston still has its problems: crime, drugs, and underperforming schools. But winning the championship brings people together. We all share something in common as people. We are all part of this mosaic. It’s not just Russell, Heinsohn, Sharman or Pierce, Garnett and Allen. It’s about the team and we’re all part of the team.”
I looked at my grandchildren (Joseph, Mikey, Ava, Julia, Mia, Sophia, and Flynn) with me as we continued to wait for the “rolling rally” to begin. The lawyer inquired, “Do they know what’s going on and what all the excitement is all about?”
“You can bet your law degree they do. They’ll remember this day for as long as they live. They will also have a better feeling about their city and the people,” I replied.
Just as I finished, I heard the roar of the crowd as the “duck boats” carrying the Larry O’Brien Trophy and the entire Boston Celtics team came into view. They moved just a few feet in front of us.
The kids cheered and the smiles on their faces were almost as big as the shiny gold championship trophy. As the WWII-era amphibious vehicles moved past us, Ava turned to her twin sister and said, “Hey Julia, Paul Pierce just waved to us.”
“Me too!” shouted Joe. After seeing the joy on the faces of all these young kids watching the parade and celebration, they more than answered our new lawyer friend’s question.
The crowd was mostly young people and those from outside the city limits. But on this day, everyone wore the green. They were proud of their team and city. That’s what a city is all about. Bringing people together.
In that measure, on the athletic fields of battle, Boston is truly the city of champions.
Another Celtics fan in the crowd asked me how the rally compared with the previous celebrations years ago.
“They all were fun and exciting,” I said. “The one in 1984 was particularly memorable for me.
Speaking to over one million people at Boston City Hall Plaza, Red Auerbach – then celebrating his 15th world title – told the crowd: “If we had cut K.C. Jones instead of Ray Flynn, Flynn would now be the Celtics coach and K.C. would be mayor of Boston.”
Celtics coach. Now there’s an idea!