WALTHAM — History and tradition are wonderful, but there are times when the burden can be too great. Times when the ones who built that legacy feel the need to defend it, and in so doing, wind up taking shots at the current structure. Take the Chicago Bears  who are getting criticism from Gale Sayers, among others.
The Celtics  are one of the most unique franchises in all of sports, and their past is always playing with the present.
Take Paul Pierce’s epic Game 7 showdown with LeBron James  in the 2008 playoffs. The immediate comparison, of course, was to Larry Bird  in 1988 against Dominique Wilkins and the Hawks. It’s hard to create your own path when everything has already been done before your time.
But the Celtics embrace their history, and it helps that their alumni embrace it too; as history.
“Our guys are the best,” Doc Rivers  said. “That’s the biggest thing that I tell people all the time. From afar you think, man you see all these ex-players around, are they still trying to hold on to their little piece? I don’t know about other organizations, actually I do, but this one is different. Our guys so much want you to do well because you’re a Celtic and they don’t worry about their legacy because they have championships too. I think it’s amazing. The best I’ve ever seen. [John] Havlicek, [Bill] Russell , all of them. When they come around all they tell you is that they want you and how to win.”
The video montage that runs before Celtics games features ex-Celtic greats from Red to Larry to Russ all speaking about their time in Boston as players and what it meant to them to be a Celtics. It’s a subtle reminder, although perhaps not that subtle, of the expectations.
“We brainwash [them] a little bit too and we do it on purpose,” Rivers said. “We show a lot of film of those guys. Larry Bird, some of the things he said, all the stuff about playing in Boston. The history of their voice, for [coaching purposes], is far better than the history of their play.”