3.02.2008

The Last Championship Parade

The Celtics caravan turned onto Congress Street, and the people followed, filling the parade valley behind. Police, wood stands and two fire trucks blockaded the team from its fans, but there was no evidence of violence at the end of this rowdy ride.

The players jumped off the backs of the trucks, turning to catch their children. Each heard his named called over and over. Equipment manager Wayne Lebeaux was first up the City Hall Plaza stairs, carrying the Lawrence O'Brien championship trophy like his newborn baby. Next was David Thirdkill, then K.C. Jones and Scott Wedman and Kevin McHale in hard hat and glasses, carrying 1- year-old son Michael.

A pink string was stuck across announcer Johnny Most's forehead as he strode upstairs, followed by team owner Don Gaston and Greg Kite and Bill Walton, who was carrying a beer, wearing the obligatory Grateful Dead T-shirt and still celebrating -- pausing at each platform to pump his fists to the crowd below.

Jerry Sichting was dressed obviously, playing to the hilt his role as the newest Celtic: He wore green cap, green T-shirt and sunglasses. Gov. Dukakis and Mayor Flynn were waiting under cover at the top of the stairs to greet everyone.

Auerbach looked upon the thousands dressed in white and green. "Celtics pride," he said after the mayor had given him two boxes of victory cigars. "That's where it is, right out there. The Celtics thank you, the players thank you, the owners, everybody thanks you."

"We're going to do it again next year," yelled Kite, carrying a smile away to the corner of the stage. He has won two championships and played in three NBA Finals in his three Celtics seasons.

"I'm 1 for 1," Sam Vincent said. "Next year it'll be 2 for 2."

"I feel no pain," said Scott Wedman, who missed most of the Finals with broken ribs. "Thank you."

"This is the greatest," Danny Ainge said after whooping it up. "You guys refused to let us lose. Thank you very much."

"Give yourself a round of applause," said Parish, who carried his Chief calm through even this party. "You've been great all year."

"Yeah, let's do it again," McHale yelled.

Walton, autographing someone's back, was next was ushered to the podium.

"Where's the beer?" he yelled to the people (he and other Celtics had gone on the wagon in pursuit of this championship).

"It starts on defense," Walton said. "You've got our little guys, Dennis Johnson, Sichting and Danny Ainge. And they're constantly running in and out and darting here and there, chasing the ball everywhere you throw it. They're going to make steals, they're going to dive for loose balls, they're going to make you absolutely miserable. If the other team got past them, Robert, Kevin, and I were there to clean up."

The crowd started yelling.

"What?" Walton exclaimed.

"Did I forget someone?"

"It was another special year for you-know-who." marveled Bill Walton. "His hands were everywhere. Steals. Rebounds. Passes. You just feel great to be a part of it. One of the main reasons I came to Boston was to have the chance to play with this guy. I didn't want to play with McHale. But you take the bad with the good. Hell, I'll pay the Celtics to be Bird's caddy again next year."

That comment doubled the decibel level.

The chant began before he even joined Johnny Most at the podium.

LAR-EE LAR-EE LAR-EE

Deafening at first, it became thunderous once McHale and Walton took turns leading the chorus.

LAR-EE LAR-EE LAR-EE

"Thank you, thank you," said Bird, wearing a white cap and sunglasses. "Jerry Sichting might not have been able to whip Ralph Sampson, but I know I can. Akeem Olajuwon never heard of Celtics tradition, but I bet he's had sleepless nights the last couple of days."

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