John Tomase

Welcome to the dawn of an incredible new era of Celtics basketball

This Celtics team has no questions left to answer after securing Banner 18.

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For seven years, we've waited to say these words to Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Brad Stevens, and so many others in the Celtics family โ€“ welcome to the rest of your life.

The Celtics are once again NBA champions, and a new day dawns. Tatum will never have to answer if he truly has what it takes, because he has scaled the final mountain. Brown will never have to wonder if the Celtics might trade him to find someone better, because he has outshined and outlasted everyone ever rumored to replace him. Brad Stevens is no longer the coach who couldn't quite see it through or the unproven executive hoping to find the right mix, because he nailed the franchise's 18th championship edition like vintage Red Auerbach.

The Celtics as we knew them โ€“ scrapping, fighting, stumbling to earn their place in the rafters โ€“ are no more. They're NBA champions after one of the most dominating playoff runs ever, and based on the composition of their roster and the history of the league, this should be only the beginning.

Jayson Tatum has an incredible moment with his son Deuce after winning his first NBA Championship

It turns out the ups, downs, highs, and lows of the last seven years really were just building to this moment, when the Celtics would synthesize every near-miss, every lesson learned, and use it to fuel a title. As the years pass, we'll forget the diminished teams they vanquished this spring and only remember how they outclassed the rest of the league from start to finish.

They won the East by a staggering 14 games, reached 64 wins for just the fourth time in the franchise's storied history, and applied the finishing touch to a 16-3 postseason by dismissing the overmatched Mavericks in five games.

They did it with what was statistically the greatest offense in NBA history, featuring an overwhelming barrage of 3-pointers, the relentless combo of Brown and Tatum off the dribble, and the unfair high-post game of Kristaps Porzingis. The Latvian big man's health will remain an ongoing concern for the rest of his contract, but if this year turns out to be a Bill Walton-esque one-off, let the record show that the 7-footer made the Celtics joyously unstoppable.

So many legacies have been forever altered. Big man Al Horford happily surrenders his No. 2 spot on the list of longest-tenured players without a title. His streak ended at 185 playoff games, smack between Hall of Fame Jazz teammates Karl Malone (193) and John Stockton (182), reunited in ignominy.

Point guard Jrue Holiday already owned one championship with the Bucks, but this one secures his place as a pure winner. We're going to look back at his career and wonder how three teams let him leave before he became the final piece in Boston, where his selflessness as an All-Star and all-league defender nonetheless willing to defer to his younger teammates helped forge Boston's team-first atmosphere. We're going to look back at him like Ron Harper or Andre Iguodala โ€“ whatever it takes to win, he's on board.

Head coach Joe Mazzulla, considered overmatched only a year ago, when the Celtics dropped the conference finals to the eighth-seeded Heat, now looks like a strategist with staying power, his adjustments too much for Hall of Famer Jason Kidd behind the Mavericks bench. Mazzulla becomes the youngest coach (35) to win a title since Bill Russell did it in a dual role in 1968. The days of questioning the young coach's use of timeouts or substitution patterns are over, and this could be the start of a Pat Riley-like career.

Then there's Stevens. When he was promoted after a disappointing 2021, plenty of us assumed he'd jump at the first coaching job to materialize. Instead, he made some painful decisions โ€“ none bigger than trading one of his personal favorites, point guard Marcus Smart โ€“ to bring Porzingis and eventually Holiday to Boston. Add the 2022 deadline acquisition of Derrick White, and it turns out that Stevens can assemble a roster as well as he coached it. The Celtics don't win this title without his additions to the foundation that Danny Ainge laid.

Staying upstairs, we shouldn't forget owner Wyc Grousbeck, either. While Red Sox counterpart John Henry retrenches and Patriots owner Robert Kraft obsesses about siphoning credit from Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, Grousbeck gives his club the resources to meet this moment. His Celtics are the envy of the NBA.

And that brings us to the Big Two. For years, we questioned whether Tatum and Brown could coexist. It remained a national media fixation even as these Finals began. What they've proven is that it doesn't take a Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to win it all. Two Pippens will do just fine.

They both controlled the playoffs in their own ways, Brown as a defensive menace and efficient scorer, Tatum by facilitating, rebounding, and exploiting the extra defenders cycled his way all postseason. The latter should find his name in future MVP conversations, while the former probably won't be left off another All-NBA team anytime soon.

That's because their lives have changed forever. To the Russell Celtics, the Cowens Celtics, the Bird Celtics, and the Pierce-Garnett-Allen Celtics, we can now add the Tatum-and-Brown Celtics. Moving forward, as the pressure shifts to the rest of the NBA to stop them, the C's should embrace the only question left to ask:

Can they do it again?

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