Goodbye, Boston. Hello, Brooklyn.

Goodbye, Boston. Hello, Brooklyn.
July 18, 2013, 2:45 pm
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On Tuesday afternoon, after 15 years of Hall of Fame service and three weeks of relative silence, Paul Pierce finally said goodbye to Boston. As you know by now, the (and this still sounds weird) former captain opened an Instagram account and spent the day shooting off a string of 44 photos, all labeled with #ThankYouBoston, and all representing various highlights from his storied Celtics career.

Most of the photos were recent, a depiction of happier (and the happiest) times. There were action shots, on court moments with LeBron and Kobe, Doc’s Gatorade bath and post-championship celebrations with Ray and KG. There were off-the-court candids, as well. Photos from Celtics community and his own charity events, shots with celebrity fans like Tom Brady, Conan O’Brien and Donnie Wahlberg. There was one of Pierce sitting up in the Garden rafters as part of an old NBA ad campaign.

Pierce ended the photo session with a picture of himself standing on the field at Fenway, in front of the Red Sox dugout, and raising the 2008 Larry O’Brien trophy before thousands of crazy Bostonians. The caption read:

“Boston, you’ve been my home for the last 15 years. Together, we’ve been through it all. I could not be more grateful for all of your support and Boston will forever be a part of who I am.”

And that statement from the conclusion of his goodbye to Boston rang true on Thursday afternoon, as Pierce said hello to Brooklyn. Even while sitting inside the Barclays Center, on a Nets-themed podium, in front of a gigantic Nets-themed backdrop and wearing a charcoal gray Nets-esque suit, with every word and facial expression, Pierce bled green all over the table.

“Well, you know, it’s tough when you've been in a situation like me for 15 years. I would have loved to end my career in Boston,” he said when initially asked about the trade, and he didn’t have an easy time saying it.

Celtics fans aren’t used to seeing Pierce uncomfortable. His unwavering confidence was one on of the defining traits of his decade and a half in Green. Yet in this case, uncomfortable was the first word that came to mind.

But the more he spoke, you could see that comfort start to set in, or more, you could see a realization on Pierce’s part of what exactly transpired over these last few weeks. You got the sense up until that very moment, Pierce hadn’t let himself believe that any of this was real. And that now, in front of the whole world, he was truly processing this life-changing event for the first time.

“I think it's starting to sink in as we speak,” he said. “I'm no longer a Boston Celtic, I'm a Brooklyn Net.”

And no doubt that will continue to set as days, weeks and months go on. It won’t be long before Pierce is at home in Brooklyn, (save for four sure-to-be emotional match-ups with the Celtics) totally at peace with his new life as a Net. By the end of the press conference, he was already off to a running start: “It's sinking in,” he said again, “and I'm liking what I feel right now."

But regardless of how deeply it sinks in and how comfortable Pierce eventually gets in Brooklyn, his parting words to Celtics fans — “Boston will forever be a part of who I am” — will stand the test of time easily, as long as The Captain’s 44-Instagram Tribute.

Speaking of which, there’s one photo in that tribute that I haven’t mentioned yet. One that I felt, somewhat subtly qualifies as the most meaningful of the lot.

It’s this:



A photo of Pierce and Red Auerbach standing on the parquet in the fall of 2003, on the night the Celtics retired Cedric Maxwell’s No. 31.

With The Captain’s departure, there are now zero guys left on the team that Red saw play (he passed away three days before Rondo’s debut), and while that’s slightly random, it means something. It always meant something. In the seven years since Red’s death, there was comfort in the knowledge that the team was being led by someone that Auerbach loved and respected. And as Pierce said goodbye, we all said goodbye to the Celtics as Auerbach knew them, and lost a certain connection to the patron saint of this storied franchise. That adds another layer of emotion to Pierce’s already intensely emotional departure.

But like Pierce, eventually we’ll all find comfort in what’s transpired with the Celtics this summer.

Even if it’s just the underlying truth that it won’t be too long before The Truth re-signs with Boston, retires as a Celtic and officially joins Auerbach among the most legendary figures in history of basketball’s most legendary franchise.