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Rivalry and respect, two weeks between San Francisco and Boston

It’s 5:45 a.m. on Causeway Street, the street that leads to the main entrance to TD Garden. After a short night, I’m waiting for my Uber to go to the airport and return to San Francisco. The green and white tide of Celtics fans, and sellers of t-shirts with the slogans “Ayesha can’t cook” (Ayesha Curry, Stephen’s wife, writes books and presents cooking shows) or “Draymond Sucks gave way to an eerie silence. The day before, Stephen Curry had just relaunched the series, scoring 43 points in a historic Game 4, conditioning a boiling and often hostile TD Garden in the process.

Barely entered the car that the driver, Herbert, immediately announces the color. “Did you watch the game yesterday? » He does not give me time to answer and goes on: “He made us miserable. He went to get the game and there was nothing to do. »

I then ask him if he still manages to appreciate Stephen Curry’s performance despite his wish to see the Celtics, the team he has always supported, hang the 18th champion banner in their history.

” Absolutely ! I don’t want to see him win this title but it’s a privilege to watch him play. He completely changed the way the NBA plays. Besides, I have to confess that he is my favorite player and the Warriors are my second favorite team! » he said to me, laughing.

This exchange sums up well the ambivalence of the two teams, the two cities and their fans during these Finals. If their rivalry is intense and visible, the respect between the two camps is very present.

The Draymond Green case is the perfect example. His big mouth, his style of play and his sometimes borderline aggressiveness make him public enemy number one wherever he plays. It’s easy to hate Draymond Green. I saw him being jeered at in Toronto, and having an ugly relationship with Cleveland fans. But even at the height of the Warriors-Cavs rivalry, Cleveland fans never got as far as Celtics fans.

It’s not uncommon to see fans insulting players, but it is to see an entire room repeating “Fuck you, Draymond” several times during two games. Some Celtics fans were surprised by so much animosity, but behind this hatred of the Warriors handyman is a mark of respect.

“We know basketball here, we know that Draymond is a central pawn of their team. It’s Steph and Draymond, Klay is less dangerous than before, and if we can help the Celtics by getting into Draymond’s head, why not? » Cody, co-founder of the marketing agency I work for and Celtics fan, explained to me, before adding: “If Draymond played for Boston, he would be a fan favorite, like Marcus Smart! »

Two rooms, two atmospheres

Celtics fans are preceded by their reputation, but the logistics of the NBA Finals also allow them to arrive at the game white-hot. The Finals represent the apex of the NBA season and everything is done to satisfy the league’s audiovisual partners who pay billions for the rights to the season. This is why games start early on the West Coast (5 p.m. Sunday, 6 p.m. weekdays) and late on the East because of the three-hour time difference between the two coasts (8 p.m. Sunday, 9 p.m. on weekdays), in order to maximize audience figures.

In San Francisco, with the exception of Game 2, fans would finish their work day and arrive at Chase Center just before the game started. The room also seemed more than half empty 20 minutes from the start of Game 1 and 5.

In Boston, on the other hand, with the game starting at 9 p.m., fans head to the TD Garden quite early but, unlike the Chase Center and many other NBA venues, they don’t have a public plaza where people can hang out. meet before and after the game. They gather suddenly in the bars and restaurants of Causeway Street and the surrounding area to do their “warm-up”.

This configuration is not the only difference between the two rooms. The TD Garden was built in 1995 to replace the legendary Boston Garden (1928-1998). The hall is built above North Station, one of the main railway stations in the city, and is showing its age. It’s a compact venue, with narrow aisles, and deafening acoustics, similar to the old Oracle Arena in Oakland.

The Warriors moved to San Francisco to the Chase Center in September 2019. It’s a brand new, modern and state-of-the-art venue, much airier than the TD Garden. The acoustics are good but not comparable to those of the old rooms. The Chase Center suffered from the unfair comparison with the “Roaracle” but still rose to power during the playoffs, ending with the famous chants “Waaaaarrrriors” who did not have to be ashamed of the atmosphere of the TD Garden.

Old NBA vs New NBA

These two rooms reflect the image of the two franchises. Stepping into TD Garden is like dusting off a history book. Everywhere, you are reminded of the legend of the Celtics. From Bill Russell to Paul Pierce via Larry Bird, before discovering the 17 banners of champions that sit above the floor. You can feel the weight of this history and the pride that comes with it.

The Chase Center represents the entrepreneurs who turned the NBA upside down. Modernity and innovation are kings on and off the floor, as a symbol of Stephen Curry, of the Warriors, who recently joined the Celtics in the very closed circle of NBA dynasties alongside the Lakers and the Bulls, and of Silicon Valley. .

This aspect also plays into the animosity between the two cities. Boston sees itself as a blue-collar, working-class city and sees San Francisco as an ultra-liberal elitist bubble that looks down on others.

“There is a disdain for San Francisco and Silicon Valley,” Cody confirmed to me. “People like to hate the Bay Area, the tech scene, startups and stuff, even though Harvard and MIT graduates are flocking to the big boxes in Silicon Valley. »

Boston, which is one of the bastions of innovation in the United States, particularly at the intersection of the medical and technological fields, is trying somehow to keep an identity that sticks to the image of the Celtics of yesteryear. Physical, rough, aggressive. That’s probably why the fans at TD Garden are more aggressive and abrasive than elsewhere.

Golden State fans, at least at the Chase Center, look more polished. They were also spoiled by a team at the top of the NBA between 2015 and 2019, and back in 2022. Boston has been weaned of titles from the Celtics since 2008. And in a city nicknamed “Title Town”, in reference to the success of the Bruins in the NHL, the Red Sox in MLB and of course Tom Brady and the Patriots in the NFL, this scarcity is starting to take a toll.

The Celtics and their fans were close to returning to success this season but the Warriors decided otherwise. Like the exchange between Draymond Green and Jayson Tatum after the Game 6 buzzer and other statements on both sides, the tensions gave way to mutual respect…until next season.

Interview in Boston.

Melvin Karsenti covered the NBA Finals on location for Basket USA. He has lived in San Francisco for ten years and moved to Boston for Game 3, 4, and 6.

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