Last Sunday I had the pleasure of “chaperoning” a trip to Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the TD Banknorth Garden. Our contingent consisted of four adults, 18 children, and three teenagers (including myself). For many of the kids, this was their first time seeing the Celtics play live. For me, it was my second Celtic’s game, with the first being a meaningless win over the hapless Detroit Pistons last April. I will always remember that game because it happened to be Shaquille O’Neal‘s final professional basketball game, a game in which he shot a perfect 7 for 7 from the free throw line until everyone in the Garden screamed his name at the top of their lungs causing him to miss his eighth free throw attempt. Seeing my favorite NBA player of all time experience a moment like that was amazing, and it was even more incredible for me to be able to say I was in attendance at his last game. Yet, despite all of that, Sunday’s Game Four was an even more spectacular experience, full of memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. For that, I owe my thanks to an unlikely source, a business who has compelled me to spend nearly all of my pocket money over the past decade on their delicious treats. I owe my thanks to Dunkin’ Donuts.
Dunkin’ Donuts, a company founded and headquartered in my home state of Massachusetts (known locally as Dunkies or D&D’s), is a corporate sponsor of the Boston Celtics. As a part of their deal, the Celtics reserve a section of 25 seats for Dunkin’ Donuts, which are collectively called the Dunkin’ Donuts Kid Zone. Dunkin’ Donuts gives the tickets away to non-profit organizations. A family friend who works at a local YMCA secured the tickets for a group of YMCA members and chaperones. In addition to the tickets, the Celtics allowed us to bypass security, enter the Garden early, and watch the Celtic’s pre game shoot around court side.
There is only one word that can adequately describe the moment when I strode into the Garden that day: unbelievable. I couldn’t believe that I was actually walking into the Garden and sitting in a court side seat, a seat that celebrities pay thousands of dollars to sit in. I couldn’t believe that I actually got to walk on the famed parquet floor which Bird and Russell once called home. I couldn’t believe that Rajon Rondo was right in front of me, stretching, shooting, and chatting away with coaches. The entire experience was just incredible. I must have snapped about a million pictures. Looking back at those pictures, two things stand out. First, most of the players aren’t nearly as tall as they are listed. Rondo is tiny in person, there is no way he’s taller than six feet. Second, all of the players are very thin, even Paul Pierce who looks flabbier than the other guys. Television really does add fifteen pounds.
After the shoot around, a Celtic’s employee showed us the player’s entrance to the Garden. It is a big tunnel, where they store spare backboards and hockey goals. Believe it or not, opposing teams drive their busses through the tunnel, directly into the stadium pulling up right outside of the court. After the games, opposing teams shower, have their press conferences, hop on the team bus and drive right out of the tunnel. As the employee was explaining this to the group, I looked over my shoulder and, sure enough, there were two gigantic coach busses which belonged to the Atlanta Hawks. As we walked out of the tunnel and past the security entrance, all I could do was smile, thinking of the ridiculousness of it all. About how when the Hawks arrived at the Garden, Josh Smith climbed off the bus and ambled onto the parquet floor which was just steps away.
Once we made our way up to our seats, I took even more pictures. I took pictures of the court, the jumbo-tron, and the myriad of championship banners hanging in the rafters. In anticipation for the start of the game, I posted a few of the pictures and a bunch of statuses on my Facebook page from my iPhone. In the minutes leading up to the game, I videotaped the Celtics coming out of their locker room, as well as the player introductons and the video that led up to them which featured Kevin Garnett and his infamous pre-game scream. I was so pumped that I screamed along with him. Shortly after that, the game started. I will spare Hawks fans the embarrassment of a description of that game. Let’s just say the Celtics handed out a beatdown of epic proportions.
Sunday’s game ranks among the top five greatest moments of my life. I had the opportunity to sit in a court side seat and watch the Celtics shoot around. I took tons of pictures and videos. I videotaped the pre game introductions that I had always dreamed of seeing live. I saw the Celtics make a definitive statement in massacring a decent Hawks team. I saw the Big Three dominate, willing themselves to victory with sheer passion and defensive intensity. I have Dunkin’ Donuts to thank for all of this. So, thanks Dunkin Donuts, I will think of that experience every time I walk into one of your stores to buy a blueberry muffin and a large iced coffee, French Vanilla, extra-extra.