BOSTON — On the day Kevin Garnett saw his No. 5 raised to the rafters at TD Garden, he officially buried his beef with Ray Allen.
As part of the ceremony celebrating Garnett’s six years with the franchise, he singled out Allen — who was sitting in the front row of the assembled guests, alongside fellow Big Three member Paul Pierce — for his being present after years of acrimony between the two.
“It’s good to see Ray Allen here,” Garnett said. “Real s—. It’s good to see you, man. You next, dog.”
Allen then came over and gave Garnett a hug with Pierce right behind them, grabbing both of them in a bear hug as the crowd erupted in applause.
It was a moment that officially brought closure to a rift that opened up between them 10 years ago, when Allen chose to sign with the Miami Heat as a free agent. It was a move that ended a five-year run for the three stars — all members of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team — that brought Boston a championship in 2008 and ushered in a new era of stars congregating in the NBA in an attempt to best them.
“Yeah, that’s a big one,” said Philadelphia‘s Doc Rivers, who coached that 2008 title team, when asked about Allen being in attendance Sunday night. “Because that’s been a problem, obviously, and the fact that it looks like the fence is finally coming down is really cool.
“Very, very happy for Kevin, and really cool that Ray came today.”
Allen said he was only sure he was going to make it to the event last week. He admitted that, for a long time, he wasn’t sure such a reunion would be possible.
But, after Allen, Garnett and Pierce were together in Cleveland for the NBA’s 75th anniversary celebration, he said the two of them were able to have a breakthrough, and Allen said he was very happy to be a part of Garnett’s day.
“Most definitely,” Allen said. “I don’t like being on the outside. There’s so many people here that I love, that I spent time with … those people, they’re etched in my mind when it comes to my time spent here in Boston, and to not be able to connect with them was always — it was always tough for me.
“Just because I moved away doesn’t mean that relationship, that friendship, ends. So it did center around Kevin and myself because I did get the sense that the people here felt how Kevin felt. Once he accepted me, then the people accepted me. That was the sense. I was glad we could do that and people could see, ‘We won with this guy in 2008, and that’s what matters most.'”
All of that felt long in the past on this day when Garnett’s number was finally raised to the rafters, where it now sits alongside Pierce’s and is the latest of the 23 numbers that have been retired during Boston’s illustrious history.
“[Former Celtic] Antoine Walker, before I came here, he pulled me to the side and he just gave me some great words of wisdom and I took that into the [introductory] press conference,” Garnett said when asked if this moment was something he’d envisioned happening. “The first thing I did after the press conference was come in here and look up at the rafters.
“I just manifested, not only a championship, but being immortal in the ceiling, you know what I’m saying? So safe to say I manifested this.”
Garnett’s arrival in 2007 in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves helped turn around what had been a moribund franchise, and led Boston back to the top of the NBA.
In his six seasons with the franchise, Garnett made five All-Star teams, was a first-team All-NBA selection in 2008 — the same year he won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award — and also made four All-Defensive Teams.
Even the Celtics losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Dallas Mavericks before the ceremony began — falling 95-92 on a Spencer Dinwiddie 3-pointer in the closing seconds to lose for just the third time in the past 18 games — could do nothing to dampen the enthusiasm and excitement in the arena for the ceremony, which began 30 minutes after the game ended and lasted about an hour.
The game was, essentially, a two-plus-hour warmup act for the main event. Garnett was first acknowledged on the JumboTron during the first media timeout — leading to the first of three standing ovations he received during the game itself.
After a massive Jaylen Brown dunk happened right in front of him, Garnett got up and celebrated with him before Brown ran back down court to play defense.
Rivers also delivered a video message since he couldn’t attend the ceremony.
“Every coach in America — in the world — should have a chance to coach Kevin Garnett, the greatest teammate to ever play the game,” Rivers said.
Eventually the ceremony began with Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman talking about seeing Garnett play for the first time with the franchise in a preseason game in Rome.
“By halftime,” Gorman said with a smile, “I wanted to give [then-Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge a hug.”
Gorman was then followed by Pierce, who had been friends with Garnett since the two of them played on the AAU circuit together in high school and whose time in Boston was revitalized when Garnett and Allen arrived in separate trades during that fabled summer of 2007.
“Antoine Walker, before I came here, he pulled me to the side and he just gave me some great words of wisdom and I took that into the [introductory] press conference. The first thing I did after the press conference was come in here and look up at the rafters. I just manifested, not only a championship, but being immortal in the ceiling, you know what I’m saying? So safe to say I manifested this.”
“We appreciated you, man,” said Pierce, who was one of eight members of the 2008 championship team in attendance. “You brought a sense of culture to this city that was desperately needed. You brought Celtic Pride back. So I want to thank you as a teammate, as a friend, as a brother, and speaking for everyone in this city and crowd and every player that had an opportunity to play with you, we love you, man. Thank you.”
A video montage of people congratulating Garnett then played, including Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas — who, humorously, was booed by the Celtics fans — along with Kevin McHale, who drafted Garnett with the Timberwolves in 1995, and Bill Russell, among others.
Finally, though, Garnett took center stage, going through an interview with fellow 2008 champion Brian Scalabrine, now working as the color analyst for NBC Sports Boston.
It was an interview Garnett kicked off in typical — and colorful — fashion.
“I knew y’all f—ed with me, but I didn’t know y’all f—ed with me like this,” he said, getting out of his seat and pounding his chest as the crowd erupted into yet another massive ovation.
From there, he and Scalabrine shared stories about their playing days together, and about the legendary passion and drive that helped Garnett become one of the game’s all-time great players.
With the help of his daughters, Garnett raised his jersey to the rafters, drying tears from his eyes.
“You know, I was listening to the videos and everything in here and I kept hearing that it was saying that I came here to make players better,” Garnett said, “and in all actuality those players made me better, and I like to think that we made each other better.”