If you know me then you know I love my Boston Celtics. This season has been nothing short of a complete roller coaster–rarely having a full roster, losing games we shouldn’t, making great comebacks in the second half only to lose by single digits, and trading away stalwart Daniel Theis. In short, this season has been tough.
Currently, as of writing this, the Celtics are the 6th seed between an up-and-down Hawks team and an overrated Heat team (Nesmith > Herro). Oh, and we are below the Knicks. Never thought I would write that sentence. Through all that pain, there have been glimpses of hope! The Jays have asserted themselves as elite, dominant forces in today’s NBA, Payton Pritchard has emerged as a legit role player on this team, Nesmith can actually play basketball, Timelord is a starting-caliber center, Kemba can still cross you up, and Marcus Smart will never stop being Marcus Smart.
Above all of that, the most important takeaway from this season is that Jaylen Brown IS the Boston Celtics, both on and off the court. Jaylen is proving the $115M contract hate wrong by besting a career-high in FG%, 3PM, 3P%, FT%, AST, STL, BLK, and PPG. On April 15th Jaylen put on a show against the Lakers, shooting 17/20 from the field and scoring his 3rd 40-point game this season.
That stat-line alone is incredible, but what is even better is that only 9 of those 40 points came from three. If you have watched the Celtics this season, then you know we have struggled to get to the line. We currently rank 21st in FTA, which honestly is pathetic. So, to see Jaylen be as aggressive as he was that game and look to drive towards the hoop most possessions was incredible.
Dominance like this was expected from Brown by many Boston fans. We knew he was capable of putting up big numbers and inspiring his team to play gritty basketball. We knew back in 2019 when he signed that contract extension, keeping him in Boston for the next four seasons, that he would become an all-star in this league. I think what a lot of us did not expect from him was his presence off the court.
This past summer, we all witnessed the reality of being a Black man in America when the Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd. A couple of months prior, Louisville police shot and killed Breonna Taylor, and we all witnessed the reality of being a Black woman in America. A month before that we all witnessed the reality of being a Black man out on a jog in his neighborhood when Ahmaud Arbery was murdered.
Elijah McClain, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant III, Jordan Edwards, Daunte Wright, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray.
The list continues.
There is something seriously wrong in this country; systemic issues deeply rooted in the history and current existence of America. Summer 2020 was a moment of reflection for many Americans. Amidst a pandemic, millions of people took to the streets to protest the killing of unarmed Black men, women, and children at the hands of police, and the systemic dehumanization and inequality of Black and Brown Americans.
Brown explains, “I drove 15 hours to get to Georgia, my community…This is a peaceful protest. Being a celebrity, being an NBA player, don’t exclude me from no conversations at all. First and foremost, I’m a Black man and I’m a member of this community…We’re raising awareness for some of the injustices that we’ve been seeing. It’s not okay.”
In the bubble, Brown continued to emerge as one of the players helping to create and push the NBA’s social justice message. Brown dedicated the majority of his pre-and post-game press conferences to discussing police brutality and systemic racism. He would share quotes from Angela Davis and explain why he thought the sentiment still rang true today. After the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Celtics and Raptors were the first teams to discuss a boycott of that evening’s games. Jaylen Brown was considered the most vocal in those meetings and led the charge that eventually led to an organization-wide boycott.
Since then, Brown has continued to be vocal, encouraging NBA players and fans to keep the pressure on even with a new face in the White House. Brown recognizes that our country is made up of systems that perpetuate inequity. He put in the work this summer and used his voice in a positive way and now he is continuing to do so while putting up career-best stats.
I cannot wait to see what is next for Jaylen both on and off the court. Regardless of the outcome of this season for the Celtics, Jaylen showed all of us what an important player he is to the Boston Celtics and what an important person he is to the NBA, Massachusetts, and our nation.