When Celts need a lift, this little guy rocks the house
He jumps for joy when Kevin Garnett slams home a spectacular alley-oop. He exults when Rajon Rondo completes a breathtaking coast-to-coast buzzer-beater, letting out a spirited “yessss!’’ as he high-fives his mother.
But when the Boston Celtics head to the sideline for a time-out, young Daylon Trotman, in one of the green jerseys he wears to games, seizes the spotlight as if it’s a birthright. He stands in the aisle, music begins to pump, and Daylon, smiling like the sun, breaks into a dizzying string of dance moves. The TD Garden crowd goes wild.
From his aisle seat in Section 17 behind the basket, the impossibly cute and absurdly assured 8-year-old, who defied his mother’s entreaties some three years ago and just started dancing in the aisles, has now become a sensation and a fixture on the Jumbotron.
The crowd loves him. Fans want to meet him. The Celtics, always looking for ways to entertain fans, have come to depend on him.
“If we showed him and then cut away, we’d get booed out of the building,’’ said Sean Sullivan, the team’s director of game presentation and overseer of Jumbotron crowd shots.
Daylon’s fame is steadily growing. This spring, he showed off his skills to rave reviews on the daytime talk show “Ellen,’’ and fan videos celebrate his fancy footwork on YouTube. He has met most of the players, and a few days ago, Kevin Garnett gave Daylon a shout-out at a post-game press conference.
“The little kid’s got it cracking,’’ he said. “He’s on another level right now.’’
At Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz, Daylon cheered, swayed, and boogied throughout, seamlessly traversing the roles of devoted fan and celebrity. At nearly every break in the action, Daylon took to the aisle to show off his talents, a buoyant display of rhythm, energy, and agility, capped with a big smile and knowing chuckle.
Daylon, who hones his multitude of moves at home and is now enrolled in tap-dance classes, said he has developed moves for favorite songs, but he generally improvises, letting the music take him where it will. Once the crowd gets going, he feeds off the adrenaline.
“I love it when it’s loud,’’ he said. “I have a lot of energy, and I use it a lot.’’
Daylon’s mother, Dana Clarke, who works in human resources at a local hospital, has been taking her son to games since 2006, when she had a partial season ticket package. Daylon, who plays a little youth league basketball himself, immediately felt at home and soon made the aisle his personal dance studio.
“I kept telling him to sit down,’’ his mother said, recalling the initial embarrassment at being flung into the spotlight. “But it was pretty clear that wasn’t going to work, so we just went with it.’’
Daylon’s youth, skill, and camera-ready charisma (shy he is not) were an instant hit, and it wasn’t long before his stylings were splashed on the screen above the court. Sullivan remembers Daylon’s debut vividly, down to the name of the song, “Crank That’’ by Soulja Boy, which became Daylon’s trademark.
“It was one of those shots’ we couldn’t cut away,’’ he said. “We kept the camera on him the whole timeout, and the place just went nuts. We had no idea it would take off like it has, but it’s just been building from there.’’
Now going to a game every couple of weeks or so, Daylon’s profile has become big enough that other fans try to horn in on the action, flocking to his area during his dances in hope of catching a moment on camera.
“People try to steal his thunder, but they have no shot,’’ Sullivan said. “You are going to get booed, booed like you wouldn’t believe.’’
The Celtics have even taken to shuttling between Daylon, who draws huge applause, and any interlopers, who are jeered without mercy.
“That part’s pretty fun,’’ Daylon admitted.
Against Utah, with the Celtics enjoying a commanding lead in the fourth quarter, the crowd’s excitement dwindled, and Sullivan and his crew decided it was time for a jolt of energy. On went Bob Sinclar’s “Rock This Party,’’ and up jumped Daylon, in the aisle and on the big screen for the first time in the game. Spotting the familar figure, the crowd roared.
“Finally,’’ Daylon quipped when he sat down. “That was fun.’’
But don’t get the idea that’s all he’s there for. He takes his basketball seriously. He compliments players on nice passes and admires good plays, even when executed by opposing teams. He knows every Celtics player, even the last ones off the bench, and says he misses a few players no longer on the team. Ryan Gomes, now with the Minnesota Timberwolves, had been one of his favorites.
Clarke, who beams with affection as Daylon dances and high-fives him afterward, is no stage mom and said she isn’t worried about him getting too big for his britches.
“He goes to school, does his homework, cleans his room,’’ she said. “He’s a pretty normal kid, and I think he’ll stay that way.’’
She blends some education into the game, quizzing him on the amount of the Celtics’ lead to boost his math skills. Daylon said he likes school, except that recently children in his French class have been saying his name with a French pronounciation, emphasizing the syllable “lon.’’
When the game ended, fellow fans rushed to congratulate Daylon for another strong performance.
“Nice job, little dude!’’ said one, waiting for Daylon to slap his hand.
“Good job, buddy, you’re the man!’’ exclaimed another.
“I got a lot of friends,’’ Daylon said proudly.
He bounced and bounded up the stairs and down the ramp, but turned around one last time to see who was named the player of the game.
It was Rondo, and Daylon smiled at the choice.
A few more high-fives on their way out, and they headed for home. Daylon, weary at last, fell alseep in the car before they got out of the parking lot.