Before you ask him, Sean Grande doesn’t know what he’s going to say if the Celtics win the 2022 NBA championship.
The Celtics radio voice didn’t want to know. If that happens — which is obviously very questionable in the NBA Finals when the Celtics and Golden State Warriors are each tied — he hopes it will be natural.
Grande believes in his ability to call action in front of him and his vision for how to fit in this season and the history of the Celtics to organically say the right things. He has been the face of the Boston Legends for 21 seasons, including the last eight at the Sports Center. The final game could be like the Eastern Conference Finals, where the winner or loser depends on the last second, or the Celtics’ 131-92 victory over the Lakers in Game 6 in 2008.
“Pre-rehearsed stuff is a bad idea anyway,” said Grande, a Celtics spokesman since 2001. “Of course, you know. You have to understand the big picture and the storyline of the season, but don’t get carried away by having the Al Michaels moment. You have to understand how it went into history, but nothing is more important than the game in front of you .”
Even in 2008, when he got the chance to create his version of “Do You Believe in Miracles?”, his longtime partner Cedric Maxwell knocked him down when the game ball bounced on the radio station, Maxwell Shouting: “I got the ball.”
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What Grande is thinking about is what he’s always thinking about, making sure the broadcast can connect to longtime diehards who remember Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Dave Cowens, and those in Larry Bird Or someone who grew up on Paul Pierce’s team.
It’s been 14 seasons since the Celtics last hung the banner, which is a long time by both team and city standards. Since then, the Bruins have won the Stanley Cup, and the Patriots and Red Sox have added multiple titles to their collections.
“When you think about the 2008 Celtics winning the championship, it’s 22 years. Fourteen isn’t 22, but it’s not three. Fourteen years is a long time, and by the time Boston fans are spoiled point,” Grande said. “We all have our own perspectives and entry points. If you’re in your 20s, you remember something (2008), but it’s not entirely specific.
“Part of my job is documenting history, and knowing the time is important,” Grande added. “Think of how old Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were when the Celtics won the championship. Jayson Tatum was younger than Tom Brady was in the Super Bowl against the Rams. It speaks to the age of these people.”
Tatum was 10 at the time, and Brown was 11. About the same age as Jack Grande is now. Sean’s 10-year-old son flew to San Francisco to be with his dad when he called the second game. He’s been waiting for a championship his whole life.
“My son wasn’t born the last time the Celtics made it to the Finals. Now, he lives and dies with it. It gives you a different perspective,” Sean Grande said. “You have to be careful not to let it seep in. My son is in Game 5 against Milwaukee. It’s going away and I know I’m going to have a very unhappy 10-year-old. You don’t want it seeping into it, but on the other hand , it’s not the worst thing because he feels what a lot of celtics fans feel….it helps to see it through my son’s eyes because it’s a big one for a lot of people a new experience.”
The fact that anyone would live or die with this version of the Celtics in June seemed insane when the team was 25-25 in late January. Grande has his place in one of the greatest season turnarounds in sports.
“I appreciate what they’ve accomplished because I know how good they’ve been historically in the second half. They’ve been playing at championship level for four months. It shouldn’t be as surprising as it is now,” Grande Say. “It was one of the first four road seasons in league history. It was a really good road season anyway. It was ridiculous to keep it going in the playoffs. So many things made this team unique. This is the most important.”
The playoffs are also unique in that it largely feels like it did before COVID, with a packed arena.
“I think the buildings are louder than they used to be. I think the demand for tickets is higher than before,” Grande said. “I think a lot of it was post-pandemic. I think it fueled the excitement of people wanting to feel normal and have these experiences again two years after taking them out of all of us.”
It’s also more normal for Grande. For the past two years, he’s played some games on set when Cedric Maxwell was in the studio, or when he played for Mike Gorman on NBC Sports Boston. Now that he’s on the court with Maxwell, they hope this will be another joyous chapter in Celtics history. They will react in this moment without warning, it’s just a pre-planned thing.
“We’re going to make sure Max doesn’t get too far from the ball,” Grande said.