Saturday, 2:15 PM
Crowds cheer as Celtics roll through Boston
By Maria Cramer, Globe Staff, and Ryan Kost and Maddie Hanna, Globe Correspondents
The Boston Celtics were hailed by a sea of green-clad fans today as their rolling rally wound its way through the city in a jubilant celebration of the team's NBA championship victory.
Players brandished trophies, smoked cigars in homage to Red Auerbach, and waved from a procession of amphibious duck boats rumbling through city streets from the TD Banknorth Garden, the Celtics' home court, past Boston Common, to Copley Square. Fans lined the route, cheering their hearts out.
"It's been a long wait, but a great one," said Patti Nunley, 48, of Melrose, who came to the parade with her daughters Siobhan, 10, and Adrianna, 7. "It was absolutely worth it."
It took a little more than an hour for the procession to reach an ecstatic crowd gathered at Copley Square. From there, the duck boats slipped into Cambridge and made their way back to the Garden.
Police said they had no estimate of the crowd size. Officers had arrested 21 people by mid-afternoon, most of them for drinking in public and disorderly conduct, said Officer Eddy Chrispin, a police spokesman.
The Celtics trounced the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA title Tuesday, ending a 22-year championship drought. It was the 17th championship for the storied team, which saw a stunning turnaround from the previous losing season after veteran stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined Paul Pierce on the team.
Today's event was the city's sixth championship celebration in seven years, following similar celebrations for the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox.
At a ceremony before the parade inside the Garden, Mayor Thomas M. Menino thanked the team on behalf of the citizens of Boston, saying the organization has "really done a great job, on and off the court."
Waiting outside the Garden for the procession, which began to roll at about 11:20 this morning, was Joseph Bennett, an 18-year-old high school senior from Methuen who showed up with his girlfriend, Jackie Wilder, 17, and several relatives, including his 13-year-old sister, Maggie. He said he had been waiting since 6 a.m.
“You got to be a fan, you got to be here early," he said.
Midway through the parade, as the procession passed the Common, where some fans had scaled lightpoles for a better view, trucks in the parade showered bystanders with green-and-white confetti as a deafening roar erupted. Pierce mouthed "Thank you" to the crowd over and over, while other players pumped their fists into the air.
Arriving in Copley Square, reserve Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who had doffed his shirt, treated the crowd to an air guitar performance.
Edison Sanchez, 30, a Rhode Island man, said he had taken time off work to attend.
"I was glad to be a part of it," he said. "You got to live a little, you know, and enjoy their hard work."
Celtics players' families, team owners, and staff, as well as former Celtics greats and pompom-shaking Celtics dancers were also part of the procession.
Previous parades have drawn as many as 1 million people to the downtown, officials said.
Officials had urged fans to take public transportation to the event, saying the route beginning at the Garden could pose more problems than previous rolling rallies that have started near Fenway Park. Subway lines will be running near rush-hour service levels throughout the day.
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