June 10, 1986
Bursting with pride and roaring their devotion, a green-tinted, beer-drinking throng of more than a million fans jammed city streets Tuesday to hail the Boston Celtics as the conquering heroes of the National Basketball Association.
"Welcome to Sweet 16!" growled Johnny Most, the radio voice of the Celtics to start off a mammoth "Celtics Pride Day" rally on City Hall Plaza to mark the team's 16th championship, gained Sunday in a 114-97 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Responding to chants of "Larry! Larry!" team captain and three-time Most Valuable Player Larry Bird touched off pandemonium when he appeared on the City Hall balcony, waved to the crowd, and held aloft the gold NBA championship trophy.
"Go ahead, make my day," Bird said. "We're very proud. We as a team feel we got the greatest team ever assembled here. Hopefully, we can prove it by getting back-to-back championships."Mayor Raymond Flynn presented two boxes of cigars to Celtics president and guru Red Auerbach, who thanked the fans and declared, "This year is the sweetest.""We love it. We enjoy it. Thank you," said Celtics Coach K.C. Jones.
Bill Walton, the hard-working back-up center who joined the team last fall, beamed from the balcony, holding his long arms over his head.
In scenes reminiscent of a warm-weather St. Patrick's Day, Celtics fans upheld a strict green-and-white dress code. Signs praised the Celtics and taunted 7-foot-4 Houston forward Ralph Sampson, who was ejected from game five for punching 6-foot-1 Celtics guard Jerry Sichting.
"Jerry Sichting might not have been able to whip Ralph Sampson, but I know I can," declared Bird. "Akeem Olajuwon never heard of Celtics' tradition, but, but I bet he's had sleepless nights the last couple of days.
"The players, coaches and the organization would like to thank the Boston police for doing a heck of a job, because any time you're around a bunch of animals you've gotta have protection. This one's sweet this year," he said.
Despite the drinking and rowdiness, there were few arrests or reports of injuries. Police spokeswoman Jane Sheehan said 25 people were treated at the scene for minor ailments by emergency medical teams and seven were arrested for being disorderly. She said police spotters estimated more than 1 million fans participated.
The crowd began gathering in the morning outside City Hall and in Copley Plaza, the starting point for the parade.
As the Celtics rolled by on two flatbed trucks, the crowd passed in front of the old Granary Burying Ground, the resting place of Paul Revere, where vendors hawked assorted green items, including $10 T-shirts.
Office workers stood on window ledges 12 stories high and threw green cards, confetti and rolls of tissue toward the team.
Sunburned teen-agers in shorts, babies in strollers and businessmen with green ties or boutonnieres lined Tremont Street up to 30 deep. Some youngsters colored their faces green.
"The party's here. We can go to the beach anytime," said Eric Stephansky of East Bridgewater.