As the 2017 Boston Celtics push for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, I’d like to take this opportunity to indulge in one of the quirks of my Celtics fandom. I’ll start by saying that, as anyone who’s ever watched a Celtics game with me will attest, I REALLY get into the games. Like, unhealthily so. I yell at the TV, call out plays, berate the refs, jump and down and give out high fives, swear entirely too much, and provide unsolicited analysis to anyone who’ll listen. Mind you, I rarely have any drinks during Cs games (weekend games notwithstanding). This is just what I do and have always done.
I remember one game back in the late 80s, I might’ve been 7 or 8 years old, when the Cs were playing the Utah Jazz. It was just your run-of-the-mill regular season game, but for some reason I got so into it, huffing and puffing so much to the point that my left arm went numb and I felt a sharp pain in my chest area. At that point I snapped out of it, so to speak, told myself, “Ivan, this is ridiculous, chill out, it’s only a game,” and finished watching the game breathing slowly so that the pain went away. They won, which helped my calming down, but I didn’t learn my lesson. I’ve been doing the same shit every game ever since. When they won the championship in 2008, I was screaming out my window for hours. When they lost game 7 in the 2010 NBA Finals, I was damn near on suicide watch. It’s just what I do. I Bleed Celtics Green, and I’m proud of it.
That said, one of the more irrational, yet fun (to me, and hopefully some of you) things that I do is come up with my own nicknames for the guys on the roster, year in and year out. That’s not to say that I won’t use any existing monikers, such as “The Truth” for example, but I sprinkle those in with my own nicknames, which more times than not I think are better. Because why wouldn’t I, right? To give you some examples, here are some of my favorites from years past with a brief explanation of the nickname’s origins:
Paul Pierce – to most, he’s simply “The Truth”, as Shaq coined him back in the early 2000s. To me, he was often “The Emperor Paulus Pierceus”. There was an old NBA.com or perhaps ESPN.com article I read way back in the day, before Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett came onboard, that playfully referred to Paul Pierce by this moniker in the context of him holding down the fort in Boston as the Celtics’ lone star player (sorry Antoine Walker). I can’t find the piece now, but it stuck with me. So during those glory years of 2008 – 2012, while everyone gave props to the “The Truth”, I’d often get amped for games by singing (yes, singing), “The Emperor Paulus Pierceus, The Emperor Pauls Pierceus, The Emperor Paulus Pierceus, The Emperor Paulus Pierceus, The Emperor Paulus Pierceus, The Emperor Paulus Pierceus, The Emperor Paulus Pierceus, The Emperor Paulus Pierceus, Pierceus, Pierceus, Pierceus, Pierceus, The Emperor Paulus Pierceus” (repeat till game time). Crazy? Absolutely. Sad? Perhaps. But it worked for me.
Kevin Garnett – To most, he was “KG” (pronounced Kay-Gee). To others he was “The Big Ticket” and some called him “The Kid”. I called him “KG” (pronounced, Kuh-Guh, or KG phonetically). I own a Kevin Garnett figurine, and during those New Big Three glory years, I had it positioned right in front of my television. So every time Kevin Garnett would make a big play I’d yell out, “GOOD SHIT KUH-GUH” and point at the figurine. I got a kick out of it, as did my roommate at the time. Everyone else was confused. I was undeterred by their confusion. In fact, I relished in it.
Evan Turner – Despite a sub-par year 2017 campaign with the Portland Trailblazers, Evan Turner was perhaps the unsung hero of the 2016 Celtics for his clutch play, grit and hustle. He didn’t really have a universally accepted or widely used moniker, but there was a Jerry West NBA style logo in his likeness that went semi-viral on the internet that year. Accordingly, he became “The New Logo Evan Turner” to me, to the point where even today I can’t say the words “Evan Turner” in ANY context, without “The New Logo” preceding them. I’m not mad at Danny Ainge for letting him go in free agency, because Portland offered significantly more than the Cs did, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss “The New Logo Evan Turner” on the Celtics.
Now that you have an idea as to how all this plays out in my head, firstly, I’d like to both thank and applaud all six of you for having read this far. That said, below are (most of) your 2017 Boston Celtics Scholar monikers. Enjoy.
Isaiah Thomas – “THE LITTLE GUY!!!”
Some call him “The King of the Fourth” due to his clutch play and league leading scoring output in the game’s final frame. But to Celtics Hall of Famer and legendary color commentator Tommy Heinson, he’s “THE LITTLE GUY”! So to me, he’s also “THE LITTLE GUY!!!”, but with three exclamation points. I haven’t had this much fun rooting for a member of the Celtics in quite some time. Every time he makes a big play, I yell out, very loudly (and obnoxiously), “THE LITTLE GUY!!!” This seems like an appropriate time to apologize to my fiancée for obnoxiously screaming “THE LITTLE GUY!!!” over the past few months at an alarming rate. We’re talking during games, during commercial breaks, before games, after games, on the phone, in the car, while doing laundry, during dinner, and sadly, even in the shower… I also wrote a poem about him, which you can check out here, so there’s that.
Al Horford – “The Big Mofongo”
Credit for this one goes to my buddy and bandmate, Spaceman, who proposed we call Horford during one of our Rap Flashback shoots earlier this year. I immediately loved it and adopted it as my own, sometimes using the Spanish, “El Gran Mofongo”, just to mix it up. For those not in the know, Al Horford is from the Dominican Republic, and mofongo is a traditional Caribbean dish, very popular in DR. Al Horford’s also very tall; thus the nickname, “The Big Mofongo”. Again, I love it. It works well, especially given Boston’s most beloved Dominican, “Big Papi” David Ortiz, recently retired from the Red Sox.
I really hope this nickname catches on. Interesting side note: “The Big Mofongo” and I have the same birthday, June 3rd, though he’s six years my junior. I mention that only because on top of using the “The Big Mofongo” a lot during games, I’ll often also yell something along the lines of, “that’s a certified Gemini dunk right there!” My fiancée hates it, perhaps because she’s an Aquarius, but I’ll allow it.
Avery Bradley – “AB” (pronounced “AB,” like short for abdomen, not “Aye-Bee”).
This one is similar to the aforementioned “Kuh-Guh” – i.e. it’s sounding out “AB” phonetically. Bradley’s one of those guys that doesn’t really have a hip nickname, so many simply call him by his initials, “AB” (“Aye-Bee”). I prefer “AB” (like short for abdomen), because of course I do. My fiancée chuckles at this one, so maybe less is more when it comes to these nicknames. Or maybe not.
Jae Crowder / Jaylen Brown = “GOOD SHIT JAE CROWDER” / “GOOD SHIT JAYLEN BROWN”
These two key members of the 2017 Celtics are lumped together because my nickname for them follows the same “methodology” (if we want to get scientific about – editor’s note, we don’t). Basically, in lieu of an actual nickname, every time they make a good play, I simply yell out “GOOD SHIT JAE CROWDER” or “GOOD SHIT JAYLEN BROWN”! To the point where, similar to “The New Logo Evan Turner”, I often just call them “Good Shit Jaylen Brown” and “Good Shit Jae Crowder” in casual conversation, whether or not they’re actually on the floor, or in some cases, even when the Cs aren’t even playing at all. Somehow, my fiancée seems to have glossed over this altogether, which is good, because I catch enough heat for all the others. Hopefully it stays that way.
Amir Johnson – “Long Arms”
Credit for this one goes to my lovely fiancée. I mention her in this piece partly anecdotally, but also because she watches pretty much every game with me. She’s also a lifelong Celtics fan and bleeds just as Green as I do. It’s one of the many reasons we click. That said, her way of imploring Amir to fight for rebounds in the block is by calling him “Long Arms”, as in, “c’mon Long Arms! Use your Long Arms and grab a rebound!” This is usually accompanied by her swinging her arms (which aren’t so long) in the air, as if to grab a rebound (presumably). I love the moniker though, and it’s stuck. I call him “Long Arms” too now, though I don’t do the arm swinging thing. In any event, my fiancée loves this nickname the most. Let’s be honest, why shouldn’t she?
Marcus Smart – “Smart Marcus”
When it comes to basketball IQ on the defensive end, he’s not just Smart, he’s Marcus Smart. In other words, he’s Smart Marcus. Get it? Oh well, tough poop, I do. And so does my fiancée, so again, I’ll allow it.
Terry Rozier – “Terry Bomb”
This one originated and works best when he hits a three pointer, a la, “bombs away!” But I’ve adopted it for pretty much any scenario. It’s like a cherry bomb, except it’s Terry Rozier, so it’s a “Terry Bomb”. This one amuses me a lot. My fiancée, not so much.
Jonas Jerebko – “JEREEEEEEEEEEBKOOOOOOOO!”
True hoops fans have heard TNT’s Kenny Smith often yell out “GINOOOOOBLIIIIIIII!” when the Spurs’ Manu Ginobli make a big play. Accordingly, whenever Jonas Jerebko makes a big play, I mimic Kenny’s tone and volume in yelling out, “JEREEEEEEEEEEBKOOOOOOOO!” This is another loud one, so needless to say, my lovely fiancée is not the biggest fan… of the nickname, not of Jonas Jerebko himself, to be clear.
Kelly Olynyk – “Wacky Waving Inflatable Kelly Olynyk”
Last, but certainly not least, my favorite of this year’s Celtics’ Scholar nicknames, “Wacky Waving Inflatable Kelly Olynyk”. Not only is this my favorite of all the monikers, it’s also the most recently conceived. Long story short, someone asked me if it was okay to hate Kelly Olynyk, and against my better judgment (because his contributions to this are VERY IMPORTANT), my knee jerk reaction was to say yes, because he looks like one of those inflatable tube men when he plays. He’s always just kinda flopping and swinging around freely, to the point where I feel like at any moment his body will contort in ways human bodies aren’t supposed to bend.
There’s absolutely no rigidity to his movements on the floor, even when he’s being fundamentally sound. It results in him traveling a lot when makes a move to the basket. Thankfully, the refs seem to miss the call more times than not, though I cringe at the thought of it costing us a big posession in a close playoff game. In any event, because of his squiggly, wavy, zig-zaggy playing motions, “Wacky Waving Inflatable Kelly Olynyk” came to be. My fiancée loves this one, by the way.
And there you have it folks. With apologies to Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller, and a few others on the extended roster, these are your 2017 Boston Celtics Scholar nicknames. Here’s hoping we’ll be using these well into June. Go Celtics!