5 Things I Learned From the Celtics

Yesterday morning started with a modeling gig at New Balance headquarters, for which I was early.  So, I passed the time in the company’s sleek café, with equally sleek white tables and chairs and Sportscenter on flatscreen TVs.  I chatted a little with my male model counterpart—a half-Italian, half-Armenian 23-year-old who was surprised to learn we could be the same age….if you have bad eyesight and read the number backwards.  3-2, nay 2-3.  Yup….please contain your shock, Demetri.

It’s rare that my mornings start with an hour of unoccupied time, so I watched Stuart Scott on Sportscenter and momentarily reminisced about the days when I never missed an episode.  Likely, I was about 23.

And, the number 23 got me thinking about Jordan, as in Michael, as in Air Jordan, as in the greatest basketball player to ever play the game, who famously wore the number 23.  Basketball got me thinking about the Celtics—my beloved and recently-eliminated-from-the-NBA-finals home-team.  I glanced at the TV and watched a soundless interview with Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade, and I felt nothing.  I like Dwayne Wade.  I have since his Marquette days.  But I’m too busy feeling for the Celtics.  I wonder what they’re up to.  I picture Ray Allen sleeping in for a change, now that the season’s over and he’s not rushing out the door to be the first one at practice.  He weaves around the granite island of a gigantic kitchen, making a special smoothie to ward off signs of aging and improve three-point accuracy.  Maybe it has chia seeds.  I wonder if he, KG, and Paul Pierce (The Truth, as Shaq once dubbed him) are OK.  I wonder if they know how grateful Boston is for the opportunity to watch them play.  Am I grateful enough, I wonder?  I should send a thank you card.

Or, I could write this post about how memorable teams teach us about life.  At least, they teach me about life.  Here’s what I learned from this season’s Celts.

Your stats are never as impressive as your character.  It’s not that the Celts lacked stats; they didn’t.  But it’s safe to say that no one predicted they would be contenders by looking at numbers alone.  So it is with anything.  Stats and their impressive brethren, like big salaries, advanced degrees, and fancy job titles, are valuable and hard earned for many, but they tell only a fraction of the story.  The rest of the story goes like this: character wins. Always.

It’s OK for people to call you old, suggest you look tired, or insist you are injured.  They can judge, critique, and doubt.  Others are younger, faster, and flashier than you, they say.  It’s also OK to ignore these people.  Here’s a tutorial from Rajon Rondo on how (after a reporter erroneously suggested his team was too old and beat up to defeat Philly).

Don’t be a diva.  It would have been really easy for any single member of the Big Three to pull the diva card.  Lesser combinations of lesser athletes have done just that.  But it would have been completely out of character (see #1).  Instead, they created the nexus of an incredible team.  Sure, divas entertain, but teams inspire.  Divas dazzle the eyes.  Teams pull on heartstrings.  And if you ask me, the best parts of sports (and life) are in the heartstrings.

The start predicts the end.  The Big Three came in as a unit insisting they had work to do and went out with a title (2008), working together till the end.  It reminds us to start something with a clear intention for how we’d like to finish it.  Want to end your day less stressed?  Do something in the morning to reflect that.  Hoping for a rewarding, high-flying career? Show up to the first day of your first unpaid internship, and hustle like hell—even when the tasks are menial, no one is watching, and you’d rather be sipping a latte and shopping for cute shoes online.  This moment, each moment, is the beginning of all your other moments.

People who matter love and support you even when you lose.  Who can forget when the Celtics were down by 20 points in the final moments of game-6, and the Boston Garden erupted in a “Let’s go, Celtics!” cheer to send the team back on the road and into game-7 with a show of support?  NO ONE—especially coach Doc Rivers, who called it one of his most memorable moments in sports.  Take this one to heart, friends, when you suit up for the game of life, you lose sometimes.  You get crushed in fact, in embarrassing, unnerving, heartbreaking defeats.  It goes with the territory, and it’s not fun.  Yet, this is when true fans and trusted friends shine brighter than any trophy.

Thank you, Celtics.

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  • Jen M

    Love every word of this. I think that nowadays people are truly distracted and swept up in the razzle dazzle and forget the heartstrings; I like how your perspective demonstrates that those strings tie into every facet of life. One other thing that comes to mind is how to act, and react, with grace even in the most difficult situations. Thanks for writing! xo

  • http://www.zemagood.com Eric Senunas


    Great post. You captured much of what I loved in these Celtics (and I love this team the most – even more than I loved the original Big 3, as heretical as that sounds). But the biggest thing for me is heart. That’s what this team was, and is – all heart.

    Thanks for writing it down. You’re a hell of a writer. Look forward to seeing more…

    Best – Eric

  • Jack

    Excellent message (reminder) Rebecca – very well said!

  • Angie K

    Well said, Rebecca. I love this post.

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