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Boston set for parade to salute Celtics' record 18th NBA championship

Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics Jayson Tatum - Getty Images

BOSTON (AP) — The Celtics entered the season vowing to turn recent playoff heartbreaks into happiness.

Eight months later, they toasted the franchise’s 18th championship in what has become the signature Boston celebration, joined Friday by a huge crowd for a duck boat parade to mark the 13th championship won this century by one of the city’s franchises in the four biggest U.S. sports leagues.

The Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins have all commemorated championships by jumping aboard the duck boats — amphibious vehicles usually ridden by sightseeing tourists.

In Boston, firing up the boats for a slow cruise down city streets has become synonymous with its feeling of sports supremacy. Friday's parade was the latest component of what has been a rolling salute to the Celtics since they finished off the Dallas Mavericks in five games in the NBA Finals on Monday night.

Starting at TD Garden, the procession lasted about 90 minutes, turning first onto Causeway Street in front of the arena, past City Hall, through Boston Common, down Boylston Street and ending at Hynes Convention Center.

Along the way, there were plenty of moments for the city to salute a franchise that just broke a tie with the rival Los Angeles Lakers for the most titles in league history. Fans marked the moment by hanging on light posts, flashing homemade signs or standing on subway entrances.

“It’s unbelievable. It still doesn’t seem true. But just trying to stay in the moment,” All-Star Jayson Tatum said during a pre-parade rally at the Garden.

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck gave fans an early treat about 90 minutes before the trade began.

He was attempting to drive to the arena with the Larry O'Brien Trophy and newly made 2024 championship banner along with his wife, Emilia Fazzalari, and their daughter.

They couldn’t get through because of traffic and barricades. So they walked a half-mile down Causeway Street, passing by a sea of fans while carrying the trophy and banner.

Inside the Garden, the rally included players and their family members, members of the Celtics organization, arena staff, season ticket holders and guests including Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

After celebrating in the locker room Monday night by spraying Champagne and posing for pictures with the trophy, the team flew to Miami for a private party.

When the Celtics returned Wednesday, coach Joe Mazzulla took the party back to people, allowing fans to see the trophy up close — and in some cases touch it — while he carried it through Boston’s famed North End.

“I drove all the way from Ohio (Wednesday) because we were coming for the parade,” Celtics fan Jason Hawkins told Boston’s ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV. “I touched trophy, man. I got video of it.”

The golden basketball was on display for all to see Friday as players, flanked by Celtics personnel and members of their families, waved and interacted with fans.

The Celtics broke every huddle this season by saying, “Together.”

Jaylen Brown said Friday the theme for this year’s team was unity.

“Whatever it took for us to win, that’s what I was willing to do,” Brown said.

As much as the day was a celebration of that team-first mantra that Mazzulla championed this season, it was also the culmination of mission that stars Brown and Tatum began after each was drafted third overall — Brown in 2016 and Tatum a year later.

The duo made it to four conference finals and one NBA Finals — a loss to the Golden State Warriors in 2022 — before finally reaching the league pinnacle. Brown earned Finals MVP honors, which he said also belonged to his “partner in crime.”

While the city had to wait nearly two decades for this celebration, the Celtics are in a solid position to try to become the NBA’s first back-to-back champions since the Warriors in 2018.

All five starters — Tatum, Brown, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White and Kristaps Porzingis — are under contract for next season. After having secured long-term extensions with Brown, Holiday and Porzingis, the Celtics are expected to do the same with Tatum and White this summer.

Reserve Luke Kornet didn't let fans forget the Celtics' history of titles, leading fans on a count from one to 18 at the end of the parade route.

Their message to the city is clear: Keep the duck boats gassed up.