This week on the Chasing Banners podcast, Ryan and I had an awesome discussion about what we thought were the top-5 moments for the Celtics in the past 20 years. We’re both 22 years old, so we wanted to give a list of moments that we’ve experienced during our lifetime.
The only moment that we excluded from our lists was Boston winning Banner 17 in 2008 since that would be a given. I’m going to give my top-5 moments, and I’d love to hear what everybody’s favorite moments would be.
5. Al Horford signing in free agency
In the summer of 2016, Al Horford signed a max contract with the Boston Celtics in free agency. The leadup to Horford’s decision was pure anxiety since it was a three-team race between Boston, Washington, and Atlanta. After days of speculation, the belief was Horford would re-sign with the team he had spent his entire career with.
Then, moments after Adrian Wojnowarski tweeted both Boston and Washington had “rapidly lost hope” that Horford would leave the Hawks, it was confirmed that Boston signed Horford to a four-year, $113M deal.
The reason this signing was so important is that it was the first major free-agent signing for Boston in forever. Boston is known for trading for their superstars, not signing them. This led to a string of free agency signings in the upcoming years, proving Boston is a team that free agents want to play for. Although the Celtics never won anything of significance with Al, he was a class act, and somebody Boston fans should always have respect for.
4. Jayson Tatum’s dunk on LeBron
The reason why I have this play on my list is that it skyrocketed Jayson Tatum’s career. Tatum was already having an unreal playoff run as a rookie averaging 18.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, but this dunk put him on the map.
The chest bump and getting in LeBron’s face after just made the clip more memorable. It’s a shame that after hitting a three the next play, Tatum never got a shot off the rest of the game, and the Celtics lost in heartbreaking fashion. Regardless of the end result, Jayson Tatum made sure everybody knew who he was after this dunk. This play will always be at the top of Tatum’s career highlights.
3. Isaiah Thomas’ 53-point game
On the day of his sister Chyna’s birthday, Isaiah Thomas delivered one of the most memorable Celtics’ performances in recent memory. His sister tragically passed away before the playoffs started, but Isaiah Thomas continued to step on the court and help Boston make it as far as they could even with all the pain in his heart.
Thomas dropped 53 points, 29 of those which came in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead Boston to a Game 2 victory over the Washingon Wizards to put the Celtics up 2-0 in the series. Thomas also had surgery days before to repair three broken teeth he suffered during Game 1. His status was up in the air for Game 2, but he played and put on a performance in honor of his late sister. This is a moment that will live on forever in Boston history and is one of many reasons Isaiah Thomas is still loved by Boston fans.
2. The Brooklyn Nets trade
Ah yes, the infamous Brooklyn Nets trade. In one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history, the Brooklyn Nets sent Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, three unprotected first-round picks, and the right to exchange first-round picks in 2017 to Boston for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry.
At the time, this was an absolute heartbreaker for Boston. Danny Ainge shipped away two Boston legends for what seemed like nothing at the time. Luckily for Celtics fans, Danny Ainge has magic powers and can see into the future. Those picks turned out to be James Young (oof), Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum. Ainge also got an extra first-round pick for trading down to draft Tatum and traded the 2018 pick in a package deal for Kyrie Irving.
Danny Ainge was playing chess while Billy King was playing checkers. King even has his regrets about the trade, which set up Boston’s very bright future while only getting back two aging “superstars.” As heartbreaking as it was at the time, and as much as fans hated Danny Ainge for trading away two of the most beloved players in Boston history, I think we can all thank him now for having a pair and pulling this trade off.
1. The Jayson Tatum pick
The Boston Celtics won the NBA Draft Lottery in 2017 and received the #1 overall pick. Danny Ainge, being the mastermind that he is, knew what he wanted. He wanted Jayson Tatum. He also knew that the Philadelphia 76ers wanted Markelle Fultz and the Los Angeles Lakers were going to take Lonzo Ball. So, instead of settling for Tatum at #1, he traded down for the #3 pick and still drafted Tatum while getting another first-round pick in the process.
Danny Ainge drafted the future of the Boston Celtics in Jayson Tatum. A year after drafting Jaylen Brown with the #3 pick, Ainge paired together two wings who would one day take the league by storm. Fans booed Jaylen on draft night, but Ainge saw something in him. Fans wanted Josh Jackson instead of Tatum, but Ainge saw something in him. Like I said earlier, Danny Ainge is playing chess while everybody else is playing checkers.
Jayson Tatum is already on the verge of superstardom and is set to become the face of the Boston Celtics for many years to come. The future is so, so bright for Tatum, and every day I thank God that he’s a Boston Celtic.
So that’s my top-5 Celtics moments over the last 20 years. Everybody has their opinion, so I’d love to hear what your top-5 moments would be. We’ve had some great moments over the years, but I’m looking forward to even greater ones in the years to come.