On Sunday, January 26, 2014, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett returned to TD Bank Garden amid standing ovations. The two were traded to the Brooklyn Nets last summer as the Celtics chose to rebuild the team. Pierce had played all 15 of his previous seasons with Boston, and Garnett had played for six. They were both on the 2008 championship team, along with Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins, and Rajon Rondo, and also led the Celtics to the 2010 finals.
“This was the toughest game I have ever had to play,” Pierce said during the post-game press conference. “Tougher than any championship game, or Game 7. This game was really hard to focus on what was at hand.”
Pierce struggled through the first half, not scoring until the second and finishing with just six points. Garnett also scored only six points, but stole a bad pass from Rondo (13 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists) and scored a layup that would clinch the game. The Nets won 85-79.
The biggest part of the game though, was the video tributes that Boston put together for the two former stars. Garnett’s tribute came first during a timeout with 2:25 left in the first quarter. The video ended by switching views to Garnett while the fans were all on their feet.
You really don’t see stuff like that anymore, at least for players traded to opposing teams. Sports are a business, and players are shifted around constantly from team to team. Every once in a while you get a franchise player, but look at Peyton Manning, arguably the best quarterback in football. He was the face of the Indianapolis Colts for 12 years before getting injured, and now he’s the face of the Denver Broncos. Even the best don’t have guarantees. While Manning also got a tribute video on his return to Indy, not every player does. Players and fans move on, and businesses get run. That’s the way things go.
Watching the video tributes to the two greats in the Celtics’ recent history was awesome, even for someone like me who is decidedly not a Boston sports fan. Pierce and Garnett deserved those videos, deserved every clap they received. They brought back a struggling Boston basketball organization and made it a championship contender again.
The tributes were touching, for fans and players alike. Boston graciously and loudly welcomed back Pierce and Garnett, and it was one of those feel-good moments in sports that make everyone stop and appreciate the talent and the dedication that players put into their teams and their sport. What these videos showed was the love that Pierce and Garnett have for the game of basketball, but also for the city of Boston. And it shows everyone, especially Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the love that Boston will always have for both of them.
Ain’t that The Truth.
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