The two largest stories surrounding the Boston Celtics recently stemmed from the sidelines. Their players are taking nights off, waiting to flip the playoff switch. Behind the bench, their fans also pulled themselves into the headlines.
On Monday night, some people ripped the crowd inside TD Garden for applauding Dwyane Wade every time he caught the ball. The Celtics gifted him a piece of the parquet in a pre-game ceremony, and Danny Ainge jabbed Wade during it for his infamous injuring of Rajon Rondo. He’s is ready to forgive. Others are not.
As strange as the embrace appeared, Boston’s ability to salute one of the greatest shooting guards in league history embodied the intelligence of the fanbase. It stood in stark contrast to the disgraceful disparagement one fan laid on Demarcus Cousins. The Celtics banned that individual for two years last week after Cousins said that they called him the N-word from the crowd.
Given Boston’s racial history, the incident cast a dark shadow over Boston’s faithful. Boston’s historically racist atmosphere and policies inherently interact with the sports realm, but the fans can only do so much to grapple with the disgusting actions of one of its own.
The respect and admiration they paid Wade, when they could have disparaged him for past transgressions on the court, reflected a group able to realize the importance of the other side. They praised Wade as an individual, rather than object, crucial to our beloved sports memories.
It’s not the first time either, throwing it back to when the TD Garden embraced Kobe Bryant. One day, it’s easy to imagine a standing ovation for LeBron James, who has never been met with anything except abrasive boos in Boston.
And the C’s certainly butted heads with Wade over the years, like with Bryant and James. The Celtics beat him for the 40th time on Monday in 68 meetings. Wade’s squads twice knocked out Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett short of the NBA Finals, and almost took out Brad Stevens’ 2016-17 group in the first round.
Wade’s career is intertwined with this generation’s understanding of a competitive Celtics team. When Boston’s been great, Wade’s appeared on the other side hitting them with lethal offensive production, even in losses. He dropped 30 points on the C’s four times in their first 10 meetings, starting 8-2 against the green.
The big three responded by handing him seven Ls in eight games, then knocking him out in five games in the 2010 playoffs. Wade won a NBA title in 2006, but watched his team sink in the east through his prime. He averaged 33.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the 2010 playoffs, to little avail.
Then he struck a nerve. He facilitated LeBron and Chris Bosh joining Miami. In the 2010-11 playoffs, he not only knocked the Celts out with 30.2 PPG, he took out Rondo in Game 3. The series against the Heat represented a changing of the guard in the east, even if it wasn’t evident then. Injuries like Rondo’s throughout that era always embodied “what ifs,” and that one couldn’t be attributed to dumb luck. Wade tilted the series with a dirty play.
Celtics fans still forgave him on Monday. Wade’s game, reaching into the mud at times, spoke for itself. When he landed lob after lob to Bam Adebayo, drilled fadeaway shots and scored 17 off the bench to pull the Heat from down over 20 to within three, he threw it back to his days as one of the scariest, killer offensive producers in the NBA.
There’s no player I fear seeing on the other side than Wade. That feeling, and the respect associated with it, resonates today as he continues to produce in his final season.
If it wasn’t for nagging knee injuries, Wade could’ve crafted a career on par with any other shooting guard. His peak compared favorably to Kobe Bryant. Andy Bailey posted their 10-year peak statistics, without names, and voters overwhelming preferred Wade.
Player A – 27.7 PTS, 5.8 REB, 5.2 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.6 BLK, .559 TS%, 5.1 Box Plus-Minus, .201 Win Shares per 48 Minutes
Player B – 27.1 PTS, 5.5 REB, 6.6 AST, 1.9 STL, 1.1 BLK, .571 TS%, 6.4 Box Plus-Minus, .200 Win Shares per 48 Minutes
— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) October 22, 2018
Larry Bird loved Magic Johnson, Celts fans showed Kobe love in his final days and the Garden delivers tributes to former players unlike any other team. That means the fans care and know the significance of legends, even ones that hurt them in the past. Some may go too far at times, but the majority gave the collective group a great look on Monday.
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