Mayor Wu’s Celtics fandom runs deep


“I have real confidence in this team.”

Michelle Wu became a Celtics fan in college when the team was struggling. As mayor, her fandom was showcased to the fullest. David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Major political figures, particularly in a city as sports-centric as Boston, have long shown an affinity for the local teams. While Mayor Michelle Wu is no exception, her love of basketball runs particularly deep. As the Celtics embarked on an arduous journey to the NBA Finals this year, Wu’s enthusiasm for the team was on full display.

Though Wu adopted the Celtics as her team and Boston as her city, she didn’t always bleed green. Born and raised in Chicago, Wu grew up cheering for the Bulls, she recently recounted The Boston Globe. With Michael Jordan leading the team to six titles, the ’90s were a great time to be a Bulls fan. It was a special pleasure for Wu to see the team from his hometown.

Her parents, who immigrated from Taiwan, strictly wanted Wu and her siblings to watch TV, she told him globe. However, the only exception was Bulls games.

She and her three siblings were so in love with the team that they sometimes pretend to be the players, she said. Wu took on the role of Scottie Pippen, the short Hall of Famer forward known for his defensive tenacity. None of the Wu kids felt qualified to be Michael Jordan, she joked globe.

The future mayor’s loyalties began to change when she moved to Cambridge to attend Harvard. Looking to connect with and find community in a new city, Wu said she was naturally drawn to basketball and the Celtics.

“The sports teams are such an important part of community building here,” she said globe. “Basketball was of course my heartbeat for me.”

By the time Wu graduated from Harvard with a law degree in 2012, she fully embraced the team. When Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks took on Boston, she was tweeted at Lin “I’ll cheer you on against any team other than my Celtics!”

Last November, Wu had the opportunity to personally meet some members of the team. Celtics stars Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart joined Wu to dedicate the newly renovated Terrence Clarke Memorial Gym at the Boston Centers for Youth & Families’ Vine Street Community Center.

Clarke, a native of Dorechester, was killed in a car accident at the age of 19. Clarke was an extremely promising player, signing up for the 2021 NBA draft after one season in Kentucky.

Seeing the Celtics players gather not only to remember Clarke, but to help inspire the next generation of Boston basketball stars left a lasting impression on Wu.

“These players are incredible role models on and off the pitch. They’ve invested in the city, they’ve helped draw attention to the need for youth sports and supported various components of it in Boston,” she told WBUR.

As a mother of two and the mayor of Boston, Wu still makes time to cheer on the team. In fact, that fandom has now extended to her boys, Blaise and Cass. Speaking to WBUR the morning after the Celtics lost Game 2 of the Finals, Wu described her children’s passion for the team.

“The boys are relentless. They want to see the score to the end. They got way off track with their bedtime schedule, so we were a little late for school this morning,” she told WBUR.

One of the hallmarks of this Celtics team was resilience. After a dismal first half of the season, they rose to elite status and clinched second place in the Eastern Conference. In the playoffs, they pushed through a grueling seven-game series against Milwaukee and Miami to secure a date with Golden State. Prior to this week, they had not lost back-to-back in the playoffs.

When interviewed after the first loss to the Warriors, Wu retained a lot of confidence.

“I have real confidence in this team. They showed an incredible ability to grow and analyze what happened and then come right back at the next game,” she said on WBUR.

Whether or not that belief will be rewarded remains to be seen, but Wu’s fandom seems poised to endure well into the future.

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