Banner No. 17 heads for the rafters. (Winslow Townson / AP Photos)
Following pregame introductions before each contest during the 2007-08 season, the Celtics would gather in a circle near the free-throw line in front of their bench and bounce in unison to psych themselves up for that night’s game.
So it might have been a bit odd for the Celtics to find themselves forming that same circle in front of the opposing bench before Tuesday night’s season-opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the TD Banknorth Garden.
A new tradition? No, an old one.
After raising Banner No. 17 to the rafters — a symbol of last year’s NBA championship — the Celtics formed that familiar circle beneath the banner and danced one last time in celebration as U2’s “Beautiful Day” — the same anthem of the 2001 Patriots championship team — blared through the arena.
The pregame festivities began with a video highlight reel of last season, featuring clips from the Celtics’ postseason run. When it finished, Queen’s “We are the Champions” began and Celtics legends Bob Cousy and John Havlicek walked onto the court to deliver the Larry O’Brien championship trophy.
Celtics captain Paul Pierce received the trophy and placed it on a table decked with a black cloth and the championship rings in the shape of the number “17.”
Flanked by the Celtics ownership group, NBA commissioner David Stern commended the Celtics before the ring presentation opened with Celtics front office and coaching staffs receiving their new diamond- and gem-studden jewelry. Head coach Doc Rivers received his ring last to deafening applause.
Each player from the 2007-08 squad was then introduced, sans the retired PJ Brown and James Posey, the lone offseason defector (New Orleans Hornets). Sam Cassell and Scot Pollard accepted in street clothes, while the rest of the Celtics wore their warmup attire.
The Big 3 brought up the rear of the line with Pierce the last to accept as cheers of “MVP!” bouncing off all walls.
As “Beautiful Day” began, the Celtics walked over to the banner lying near the top of the arc in front of the visitor’s bench. Showing the same teamwork that made the Celtics successful last year, each player seemed to want to get a hand on the rope that hoisted it to the rafters, where — as the chorus hit — it nestled safely between a set of retired numbers and the last championship banner from 1986.
The familiar chant of “Let’s Go Celtics!” poured from the crowd.
After lineup introductions from both squads, an emotional Pierce took the mic at center court and addressed the crowd.
“Sometimes you don’t know if this day will ever come,” said Pierce. “Dreams do come true.”