Celtics fans snap up gear, tickets as NBA Finals come to Boston

Boston’s TD Garden ProShop is slow going most weekday afternoons.

But not now, not with the Boston Celtics battling for a championship in the NBA Finals. Instead, the place is packed with basketball fans looking for the latest t-shirts, hats, and posters.

“I have to get my Celtics gear,” said Angel Calderon, a Roslindale-based airline worker who lost $150 on a Jayson Tatum jersey and NBA Finals patch.

The Boston Celtics are down 1-1 with the Golden State Warriors after two games in San Francisco. The C’s are hoping to take the lead in their first game of the series on home court in Boston on Wednesday night.

The series, the first finals for the Celtics in more than a decade, has electrified millions of Celtics fans and sent ticket prices skyrocketing. But the team’s success could be particularly exciting for the Dominicans.

That’s because veteran Celtics center Al Horford hails from the Dominican Republic — the island’s first player to come that close to a basketball championship.

“It’s an amazing thing in the Dominican community — it’s a huge thing,” said Calderon, whose wife is Dominican.

Boston Celtics’ Al Horford leads the court after scoring against the Golden State Warriors in 2017. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

More than 150,000 Dominicans call Massachusetts home. It is one of the largest concentrations of Dominicans in the country.

Calderon plans to watch the games from home but he’s hoping someone – like his wife – will remember his birthday.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll get some tickets if I’m lucky,” Calderon said, laughing.

It would be an expensive gift: from $800 for balcony seating to $20,000 for pitchside seating.

Roslindale's Angel Calderon shows his Celtics pride with a t-shirt featuring star Jayson Tatum's son.  (Courtesy of Angel Calderon
Roslindale’s Angel Calderon shows his Celtics pride with a t-shirt featuring Jayson Tatum’s son. (Courtesy of Angel Calderon)

The Celtics’ playoff run is a boon for people with sports businesses, many of whom have struggled during the pandemic, when seasons have been cut and stadiums closed to spectators.

“It was a nice way to get out of the gate,” John Higgins, owner of Higs Tickets, told TD Garden. “I mean, we were closed for 377 days, so it wasn’t something I want to relive.”

Now demand is so high that Higgins fears desperate fans could be tricked by scammers selling fake tickets.

“There’s going to be a lot of scammers out there,” Higgins said. “Never pay cash for any ticket. Everything should be transmitted mobile.”

Of course, that’s not a problem for most fans. You will watch the game on TV.

But even watching the game on TV could be a challenge for Eric Maddocks, a lifelong Celtic fan who now lives in Texas. He had already planned a vacation deep in the Maine woods. He says his only way to get involved might be through the satellite phone.

“But it’s quite expensive to use one [satellite] phone per minute up there,” he remarked, “so I’m going to hook up every antenna I can to get reception.”

One way or another, Maddocks plans to join millions of other Celtics fans as they ensure the team takes home their 18th championship. Even from the devastation of northern Maine.

“Go C’s!” he said, smiling under his face mask.

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