What will we most remember these champion Boston Celtics for?

Jayson Tatum holds up the Larry O'Brien Trophy after leading the Boston Celtics to the 2024 NBA title.

This will be remembered as the year that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown got their championship validation, but the Celtics should be remembered for more than that. (AP Photo)

After the champagne bottles have emptied, the confetti is cleared from the court, and the championship gear commercials finally stop playing, what will we remember these Boston Celtics for?

The 2024 NBA champs were a great team by any statistical measure. 64 wins in the regular season. A 16-3 playoff record. But maybe because of past playoff failures, it never seemed like a sure thing that they’d take home the Larry O.B. until around Game 3 of the Finals, even after everything had broken their way.

These C’s did everything they needed to do to take the title. They played basketball their way, and had far too much talent for the meager foes that fell before them in the playoffs. Miami without Jimmy Butler? Light work. Cleveland, for half the series without Donovan Mitchell? Like a bye. Indiana, a 6-seed in the conference finals? Please. And Dallas, the 5th seed in the West, in the NBA Finals? What is this, 2K?

It was, no doubt, a relatively easy path to the title. We didn’t get to see a Nuggets-Celtics clash that surely would have provided more drama than Luka, Kyrie and the Mavs could muster, but that’s not Boston’s fault. Their main competition in the East– the Bucks, 76ers, Knicks, Cavs and even Heat– all experienced back-breaking injuries. The C’s were elite all season long, as they had been in years past, but they didn’t have to prove it in the same way most champions do. The same way they tried and failed to do in previous years.

Still, none of that will matter when basketball historians look back on this season. The Celts will be remembered as a legit, rubber-stamped champ, and they deserve that. This team was elite in almost every facet of the game– they were No. 1 in offensive rating, No. 2 in defensive rating, the league’s best rebounding team, No. 1 in blocks and second in opponents’ field goal percentage. They boasted the longest winning streak of the season– 11 games– and rolled through the playoffs with only three losses.

Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) is blocked by Boston Celtics’ Derrick White (9) and Jaylen Brown (7) during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series, Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The media narrative around the champion Celtics will probably focus a lot on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown getting their championship validation, and for as much playoff heartbreak as they’ve been through, that’s fair enough.

But more than anything, these C’s should be remembered for the swashbuckling way they played– the all-in, chips-at-the-center-of-the-table buy-in to three-point shooting and five-out floor spacing that was on a different level from anything we’ve ever seen before.

Sure, the league has moved towards 3-point shooting and floor spacing ever since Steph Curry and Klay Thompson started winning titles by cashing 3s at an inordinate percentage. But these Celtics took that to a level even those Warriors didn’t. Everybody on the floor– from Tatum and Brown to Derrick White, Al Horford, Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis, could knock down 3s. Tatum and Brown could damage you on drives, and White, and even Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser, could make you pay if you helped.

The Celtics led the league in 3-point attempts by over 3 per game (42.5)– which is pretty astounding, and they also managed to finish just once percentage point behind Oklahoma City in 3-point percentage (38.8).

Tatum and Brown’s ability to buy in and trust the system, and not get stuck relying on one-on-one moves or ill-fated drives, is really what made the difference this season. The trust in the offense and their teammates’ ability to knock down shots allowed the Celtics to play a brand of free-flowing, impossible-to-guard offense that proved to be overwhelming. They came at you in waves, with that Boston crowd exploding with euphoria after each dagger 3, and it was all too much for any opponent to handle.

Add that to their ball-hawking, pestering defense, and it was always going to be a recipe for a deep playoff run.

In Jrue Holiday, Derrick White and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics had a number of versatile, athletic wing defenders who could cause problems for other teams. There weren’t many matchups teams were able to hunt and exploit, and Holiday and White proved to be two of the best defensive guards in the NBA. Holiday’s strength, toughness and versatility were especially valuable, and just like their offense, there were virtually no weaknesses for the C’s on the defensive end of the floor.

After years of close calls and heartbreaking playoff losses, Brad Stevens put together a team that proved flawless this time. The Holiday trade in the aftermath of Damian Lillard’s move to Milwaukee proved to be the biggest offseason move by far.

Joe Mazzulla’s brilliant mind, his system and attention to detail made him a perfect mastermind for this group– and he quickly proved doubters, and those who dubbed him “Second Row Joe” wrong.

It was a basketball masterpiece.

No, the Celtics didn’t face a murderer’s row of opponents on their way to the title. But they’re not apologizing for that.

They stood up, beat down everyone in their path and stormed to the franchise’s 18th title. They were a juggernaut.

More than anything else, that’s what these champion Celtics should be remembered for.

And like most fans right now, I can’t wait for them to run it back.

After long, seven-year road filled with excruciating losses, Celtics’ coast to NBA title felt ‘surreal’


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