How the Celtics’ championship exemplifies sacrifice and Boston pride

The slogan “Whatever it takes” printed on the t-shirts at TD Garden wasn’t just a catchy phrase—it was a declaration. Winning championships demands sacrifice, and as the Celtics stepped onto the court for Game 5 of the 2024 NBA Finals, one victory away from glory, they were prepared to give everything.

Coach Joe Mazzulla was hobbling on a torn meniscus. Kristaps Porzingis put his left leg on the line. Derrick White literally gave a piece of his tooth. And after a grueling 48 minutes, the Celtics were crowned champions.

But let’s be honest—it was about much more than just those 48 minutes.

The Celtics’ 2024 NBA title was the culmination of a 16-year saga. Sixteen years filled with three head coaches, two Finals losses, and one gut-wrenching trade. At long last, Boston was hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy once more.

Porzingis and White’s readiness to risk it all in Game 5 were the final chapters in a 16-year epic that saw the Celtics organization make every conceivable move to reclaim the NBA summit. Anything less than a championship? Please, this is Boston.

Known as the “City of Champions,” Boston doesn’t just aim to win; it aims to dominate, something I learned while witnessing Games 1, 2, and 5 of the Finals.

These Celtics didn’t just win for Boston. They won because of Boston.

In a poetic twist, the Celtics secured their NBA-record 18th title on their home court at TD Garden, 16 years to the day since their last championship win on Boston’s legendary parquet floor.

After a protracted pursuit of Banner No. 18, the Celtics clinched the title in front of nearly 20,000 fans who had endured every twist and turn of this 16-year journey. The lows only made the high of this victory even sweeter.

As Boston began to pull away from Dallas in Game 5, you could feel the nervous tension in the arena shift to jubilant anticipation. With a 19-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the fans could sense it—Banner No. 18 was on its way. They just knew.

“Over the last few years, we’ve had some tough playoff losses at home,” Jayson Tatum reflected, basking in the glow of victory. “We’ve lost the NBA Championship at home. We missed a chance to beat Miami in Game 6 a few years back. So to win the biggest game in front of our home crowd was crucial. I did everything in my power to make sure we won tonight.”

Everything in his power. Whatever it takes.

Tatum often speaks about growing up in Boston. Seven years after joining the storied franchise as a 19-year-old with unlimited potential, Tatum is now a five-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection, and an NBA champion.

During the championship parade, as Tatum rode a duck boat through the streets of Boston, he kept shouting, “I love you,” to the cheering fans.

Clearly, the feeling is mutual.

Jaylen Brown, who joined the Celtics a year before Tatum, has also grown up in Boston. Like Tatum, Brown has faced his share of unwarranted criticism during his eight years with the team. But now, he too is a champion—and the Finals MVP to boot.

Jrue Holiday arrived in Boston with a championship mindset, knowing he was the final piece to the puzzle when the franchise acquired him before the 2023-24 season. From day one, he knew that anything less than a championship would be a letdown.

Among all the Celtics, Al Horford’s journey was the longest. After 17 years and an eight-year Celtics stint that included a two-year detour elsewhere, Horford finally became an NBA champion.

Reflecting on his achievement, Horford recalled a conversation with Danny Ainge during a 2016 free agency meeting.

“[Ainge] said, ‘You can win championships in many places, but there’s nothing like winning in Boston. Nothing like winning as a Celtic.’ That stuck with me. I thought, ‘Man, I want to be great, and that’s what I want.'”

Winning is sweet, but as Horford’s final moments on the floor in Game 5 showed, winning in Boston is even sweeter.

From Mazzulla and the Celtics’ core six players to the “stay ready” group playing rigorous pick-up games hours before tip-off, everyone understood that no sacrifice was too great to achieve the ultimate goal of an 18th championship.

As the Celtics’ celebration continues into the summer, remember that the standard of excellence this city demands means this group will be even hungrier for more.

The 2024 championship might just be the beginning.