Thursday, June 19th, 2008 at 3:49 pm  |  38 responses

Even Lakers Fans Can Applaud These Cs

The Commish included

By Vincent Thomas

This is going to sound absolutely batty, coming from a Lakers fan; but, if there was one team that could mute the extreme disappointment of watching the Lakers fold on the grand stage, it was this particular Boston Celtics squad. Yeah, you read that right. History and rivalry aside, there is no sane way that I could begrudge this particular Celtics squad their trophy and rings — not this one.

A friend and colleague of mine recently wrote a provocative piece about a similar notion, except she came at it from the opposite end, positing that fans of the Lakers, Sixers, Pistons — and other 60s, 70s and 80s Celtics-victims — could only accommodate and applaud the Celtics in shame. Before last night, I was in partial, lax agreement with that idea, but that was until truth and humanity fought through my own petty, selfish, wannabe-diehard cloud of anti-Celtic hate. I saw KG crying, Doc vindicated and Pauly euphoric and thought, “Get over yourself for a moment, Vince. You gotta be happy for these dudes.”

That’s, right: as a Lakers fan, I’m actually happy for the Celtics. I don’t understand how any fan of the NBA could be wack enough to fight what I suspect to be the natural human reaction to this chapter in the lives of the men playing on that squad. Their collective story is far too compelling to dismiss. Failing to recognize the poignancy of this team and what they’ve accomplished, just because they rock green and white, is not only dumb and wanksterish, but corny.

If we replaced KG with, say, the magnificent, yet, robotic Tim Duncan; swapped Pauly for Flop Master Manu; subbed Tony Parker in for Ray; and gave Doc’s duties to Scott Skiles — THEN we’d have a Celtics team to hate. Otherwise, the Cs have been helpless and tragic for far too long and this ’06-’07 squad was far too likable to hate based solely on a rivalry that laid dormant for more than a decade.

Yeah, those Cs of the 80s got a lot of skin-color-love; yeah they were arrogant; yeah the were sneaky and conniving; but the Celtics-hate started long before that. Blacks had their reasons for hating the Celtics, but the hood didn’t have a monopoly on Celtic-hate. Almost everyone, at one point, hated the Cs because those mofos won all the championships. Well what happens when, for 22 years, a franchise is marked by the tragedies of two deaths, the comic-misfortune of losing out on the Tim Duncan Lottery and year-after-year ineptitude? They lose that mystique and become insignificant. Does anyone still hate Ja Rule or Milli Vanilli?
We all loved KG’s bully analogy, didn’t we? I found it ironic that the figurative bully he spoke of could have been used to describe the Celtics from 1957-1986. Sixteen championships in 29 seasons. But then Doc-n-the-two-Mos, Magic-n-Kareem, Zeek-n-Joe and Michael-n-Scottie collectively beat that bully down over the course of 10 years, until, looking up in the mid-90s, the Cs were an afterthought — unless you were a big Dino Radja fan.

So check what went down: The high school bully graduated, dropped out college, had a child die from drug overdose, another from heart problems, got divorced a few times, lost his job, suffered the ridicule of being a window-washer for 10 years and then, his luck changed. He found a caring wife, stumbled upon a great gig and started a new family. When you see this cat at the 20-year reunion, would you really begrudge him that happiness, considering what he went through for the two previous decades and given that he seems to be a changed man?

Two things can turn a team into Public Enemy No. 1: recent and prolonged dominance and/or loutish behavior. These Celtics exhibit neither. So other than arbitrary fan-chest-thumping — “I’m a Lakers fan, I can’t do anything but hate the Celtics” — was there any reason to do anything but smile after the buzzer sounded and you saw these men in extreme states of elation?

I’ve seen countless championship celebrations in my lifetime. I was too young for Jim Valvano’s manic, meandering sprint across The Pit floor in Albequerquee, but I did see Michael Jordan collapse on a floor in a bittersweet anguish and vindication, later hugging the trophy, still sobbing. MJ’s celebration — if you can call it that, with the death of his father as a somber backdrop — had remained the most compelling championship-reaction, right up until Michelle Tafoya grabbed KG near midcourt. Only arduous, well-deserved triumphs can effect humans that way; and only special dudes react the way KG did: naked. Then he gives us several “man, man, man”s and the bully-talk, which was preceded by Pauly entering the press conference, slamming his palms on the table and pronouncing, “Yall gotta hurry up! I got some partying to do with my teammates!” Doc was hoarse and humble.
Again, I ask: How could you not be happy for this crew?

My dudes, the Lakers, coughed it up. Kobe and Phil were alarmingly outdone by their inferior counterparts (Pauly and Doc). But I take solace in a few things: 1.) Bynum’s on his way; 2.) Kobe will play like a deranged maniac next season; but more importantly, 3.) The better team won; and most importantly, 4.) The cooler team one.

Enjoy this one, Kev, you deserve it.

Vincent Thomas is SLAMOnline columnist and SLAM Magazine contributor. He can be reached at vincethomas79@gmail.com.

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  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Actually, I do hate Ja Rule and Milli Vanilli.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Well spoken, Vincent. From a fellow Kobe-follower, this piece mirrors my feelings toward this series over the last few days exactly. After all that Paul and Ray and KG went through over the past decade collectively, nobody wanted, deserved and fought for it more than them.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    I still hate Ja Rule,very much.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ H to the izzo

    And I like the “robotic” Tim Duncan,Manu and Tony.

  • B. Long


  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I wonder if Laker fans will go into an extreme state of depression if Bynum never fully recovers?

  • riggs

    ja rule > 50 cent

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I hate 50 too.

  • thasam

    The Jordan celebration that was just as compelling to me was when he won his first title in ’91. I still remember Bob Costas asking “Where’s Michael?” repeatedly and talking to at least three players (Pippen, Grant, and Cartwright) before he and the NBC camera finally found Michael crying and holding the trophy with his father and wife by his side, barely able to speak and never looking up. KG’s jubilation is right up there, and it was only right that Scoop asked him the question that prompted the classic bully analogy. That is a testament to all of you at SLAM and what you mean to the game, it’s players and the true fans. You can extend it to the NBA as a whole, because after this series, people will finally see the league in a better light than they had in the past few years. I forgot who said it yesterday in another thread, but one poster said that the bully analogy was KG’s way of referring to the media, and I completely agree.

  • Donn

    okay, okay…i’m a die hard laker fan too and i have to admit i admire this Celtic team and the way they play….i will applaud them also…now can we please have a rematch next year so my Lakers can get their revenge….

  • Donn

    I hate Milli…but isn’t Vinilli dead..or the other way around?

  • Donn

    young buck hates 50….

  • http://firemitchkupchak.com Jackie Moon

    Fine, Vince, I don’t hate them. But I will hate them if they repeat.

  • blackjack

    Way to kick a guy when he’s down with that Dino Radja comment

  • http://myspace.com/mrdyalekt d.Y.

    I’m with you, but proofread homie please. Sorry to be a d*ck, Iv’e just scene two manny errors on this sight lately.

  • Jess

    amazing article. I am a Celtics fan and love KG Paul and Ray. It was so amazing to see the three of them finally getting their chance to hold that trophy and celebrate. I dont know how any basketball fan couldnt acknowledge the hard work that these three have put in and be proud of them. They had an amazing run and they should be proud. I dont think their was anyone more deserving to win. Again, amazing article.

  • Clint

    As a Laker’s fan, I admit that the Celtics winning wasn’t all that difficult to watch: Ray-Ray deserved it. Pauly earned it. And KG couldn’t live without it.

    KG was a grown man reduced to a stupefied fool over it. After all, in his telling, he was more than a conqueror, having knocked out his bully.

    But don’t you ever–even in a mangled inner recess of your mind–think that his tomfoolery compared to any of Jordan’s elegant expressions of triumph.

    DON’T DO IT!!!

  • http://www.ballerblogger.com Brandon Hoffman

    If there was one player in the league that deserved a shot at an NBA championship — it was KG. Good read Vince.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    if you are a true NBA fan, cheering for KG is pretty much a given. i’ve never liked the celtics, but KG made me root for them.

  • John D

    Nice work even though I’m a Celtics fan so I can’t really relate.

  • http://www.youtube.com/dunkadelictv Dunkadelic MC

    The Boston “Dunkadelic-3″ of KG, Double P, and Tre-Ray deserved to win the NBA Championship. Enjoy the celebration.

  • http://firemitchkupchak.com Reggie Evans

    The One-Year Wonders did pretty well this year.

  • Krishan

    Cosign on albie

  • Krishan

    The only team I hated during this series was LA. And I’m a Laker fan. How’s that for transcendant?

  • Chukaz

    I not agree with you, Vince. I’m a freakin’ Lakers fan, I really cried when they went down big and I realized it was all over. I looked the door of my room so that my parent wouldn’t find out I was crying about something as stupid as basketball, but I’m a real Lakers fan. With all that said, if the Lakers were gonna loose to somebody, it might as well been KG and Jesus. I hate Paul Pierce, but I respect Jesus, and KG is my second favorite player. I don’t feel good or happy or anything for the franchise. I’m glad KG and Jesus won. Aside from that, F*CK THE CELTICS!!!!

  • http://www.truthismygame.com/ Kevin

    amazing article.. one thing i was gonna add is this, the Celtics play basketball the right way.. i still think the Lakers are a more fun team to watch, and are a more talented team 1-12.. BUT, the Celtics play and behave like an actual team, and that to me was the difference in this series.. i’m definitely a Lakers fan, and when i got over my bitterness (for how close Kobe got to having his “perfect year”), i definitely sat back and thought to myself that the Celtics truly deserved this..

  • Chukaz

    I hope KG and Ray enjoy this one, because they won’t be gettin’ another one. With Andrew coming back, the Lakers are a lock for the next five. The Spurs will be back (they always are, unfortunately). The Suns will get better. Portland is gonna make some serious noise 2 years from now, when Gregg Oden is on his 3rd year. Don’t forget about the Jazz. The Celtics will be in the finals next year. Orlando might the the only obsticle and they are still a SG and big man away from making noise. The sixers will be there just because the east sucks. Nobody knows whats going on with Detroit. Atlanta still needs a Center so that their front cour player can finally play their natural positions. The Heat is in rebuilding mode, some for Chicago and pretty much the entire Eastern conference. The LeBrons will be there, but Bron will still lack the supporting cast. Worst case scenario for the C’s, the Sixers land Elton Brand and Andre turns into Vince Carter(Air Canada Vince, of course) and the Sixers. That would make the Sixer more athletic(could improve defensively), younger, quicker than the Celtics and the Lakers proved that the only way to beat this years C’s defense is running.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com People’s Princess

    I still can’t bring myself to say “I love me some Celtics”,the Laker in me revolts at the very thought.Yes,I am too young to understand the whole Lakers-Celtics shindig,but I feel the same rage towards every team in the Lig.My team=Lakers and that’s how it’ll be for eternity.That said I respect these Celtics,a lot more now.I’d pegged them as a supercharged version of S.A with a much younger bench but this series opened my eyes to the genius of Thibodeaux and the gully-ness of Pierce.These guys will get my applause but no Gang-Green member is gonna get my adoration or love.Even KG.

  • Slobodan Chutzpah

    Finally some sanity. Seeing how damn compelling a story and likeable a bunch these guys were, I don’t understand how any NBA fan could begrudge them this win. This was by far the most compelling NBA title victory in a decade, maybe more. That KG interview was an instant classic. Any of you think we would’ve gotten something similar from Kobe? Thought so…

  • Slobodan Chutzpah

    Also, this Celtics title goes on to highlight just how damn unlikeable the Spurs are, for some reason. Both teams play a defense-oriented style, but whereas the Cs are a treat to watch, the Spurs just seem boring.

  • Slobodan Chutzpah

    Hating Milli friggin’ Vanilli in 2008 is like hating Britney in 2026.

  • Madrub

    Is there anybody at the SLAM-dome that knows the difference between “affect” and “effect”?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    @ Milli Vanilli “Yes you know it’s true, ooh, ooh, ooh, Vince hate’s you”

  • Mark Z

    How’s this: “Stern affected Boston’s use of pyro effects after Cleveland players complained of allergic reactions.”

    Nice piece, Vincent. I understand momentary hate when a player/team beats your squad, but I never understood ‘hating’ the better players in the League. You have to appreciate the talent on display, even if it’s giving your team a beatdown.

  • AC

    The Celts are classic power… Like the rise of an old Royal Line. My Dad bled Green… I loved watching them, but was more caught up with The Admiral, Elliot, Rodman, Avery… the list goes on… black and silver unless HE was playing… then I had to watch art in motion. Nowadays… I still have the Spurs and a split loyalty to CB4′s boys up North, but I was guilty of wanting the Lakers Celtics thing to be. More importantly, I wanted Kobe to almost win… but have the the world flash green and remember the NBA was Red and Bill’s house long before HE began to fly.

  • Dusto

    Wat Up V! If anybody seen the interview KG had wit John Thompson 3 years ago…nuff said!!! He gives everything….then a little more! Kudos on the Big Baby/dwn syndrome moment n Dino was ma dude! “Cum n take a ride wit ya boy”

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    It’s cool to see legit stars who’ve paid their dues get their first rings no matter what team they play for. How long has it been? Wade was so young, and the Pistons didn’t really have that one transcendent star (although seeing Rasheed get a ring ranks way up there). I’m thinking David Robinson in ’99 and Shaq in 2000. Before that you’re looking at Drexler in ’95, Hakeem in ’94, and of course Jordan and Pippen in ’91.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariq

    Dino Radja was just plain awesome. Although he couldn’t hold a candle to Eric Montross.