For six years Celtics fans heard Eddie Palladino announce “at forward, 6-11 from Farragut Academy, KG Kevin Garnett!” Hearing that regardless of the uniform, it brings Celtics fans back to one of the greatest moments in franchise history, which was banner 17 being won on the TD Garden court reminding us that anything was possible. During the Celtics-Clippers game on Thursday night, it was announced that Kevin Garnett will join his Big 3 teammate Paul Pierce in the rafters next season. This announcement was supposed to be a celebratory one but alas, fans of Boston sports have chimed in saying “There’s so many numbers retired” and “At this rate, the Celtics will have triple digits on the floor.”
As a Celtics fan since the late 90’s I can tell you some of the teams that were on the floor were not very good. Between the 2005-06 season and the 2006-07 season Boston had a combined 57 wins. A 17 game losing streak, Paul Pierce almost ended up in Dallas, and instead of choosing between Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, the Celtics won the 5th pick in the lottery. Then draft night 2007 happened, shipping KG from Minnesota to Boston for players and picks. What happened next was euphoria for Celtics fans, including a 66-16 regular season, a long playoff run that led to the NBA finals and eventually a return to an era C’s fans thought was long gone.
As a Celtic, number 5 averaged 15.7 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game. The stats may not be very impressive, but what KG did for the Celtics was give them energy that was gone for a long time. Diving on the floor for a loose ball, doing push-ups after taking a charge, trash talking and being an emotional leader were some of the attributes that Garnett brought with him. He made players around him better, which was what the team needed during that time.
KG’s number will be the 23rd number retired. Jim Loscutoff’s name is retired, so Garnett will be the 24th member of the Boston Celtics in the rafters, which brings us back to the discussion that radio shows are having. Why are the Celtics retiring all of these numbers?
Are there numbers in the rafters that shouldn’t be? Maybe, but this doesn’t take away from the historical significance this team has had on sports. Nine championships in the 1960’s, two in the 1970’s, three in the 1980’s and of course one in 2008. Some of the early years didn’t feature many teams for the Celtics to beat for championships, but the impact players and coaches from Red to Russell, to Cousy, to Bird and Parish deserve to have their number never worn again in Boston.
Since June of 2007 Boston Celtics basketball has been at a level of popularity not seen since the 80’s. For that 17-year period between 1990-2007 the team needed the leadership, the grind, the attitude and the desire to win that they had in the older days. Turns out they needed a player that banged his chest, showing he bled green and was not afraid to tell it like it is. The Celtics simply needed the Big Ticket.