BOSTON — When Avery Bradley was in Boston, there was a lot to like about him.
Day-in and day-out he showed up, did his job and did it with very little fanfare and even less talking.
He knew exactly who he was, what he stood for and wasn’t about to step outside those lines, preferring to let his actions – not his gums – do the talking.
So when you hear about the Boston Celtics culture, Bradley is a classic example of what that embodies.
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And it is that culture that’s on display now, particularly when it comes to the more outspoken voices you hear from NBA players speaking out on issues such as social injustice and police brutality which are all symptoms of a larger problem of systemic racism, bias and prejudice.
In addition to Avery Bradley, former Celtic Kyrie Irving is also part of a players coalition that is seeking increased clarity on the NBA’s plans for how they will address many of the talked-about issues impacting the Black community, before feeling comfortable returning to play in Orlando, Fla. next month.
Current Celtics Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier either led or participated in protest marches in Atlanta (Brown) or Boston (Smart, Kanter and Poirier) to raise awareness to the societal issues that were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota who died after a now ex-police officer Derek Chauvin, planted his knee into the neck of Floyd for eight minutes, 46 seconds while Floyd was on the street, face down while being handcuffed.
And while the city of Boston has taken its share of hits through the years when it comes to racism and the treatment of Blacks, the same does not hold true for the Celtics organization which has consistently been among the NBA’s pioneers when it comes to bringing about the kind of systemic change in the NBA that players such as Bradley would like to see more of going forward.
Bradley, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, has a lengthy list of things that he and many of his fellow NBA players would like to see the league do a better job of addressing in the near future, such as improving its hiring practices to better reflect the make-up of the league’s players as well as improving partnerships with Black-owned businesses, while also providing more clarity on what the NBA plans to do donations-wise to support and serve Black communities.
“Regardless of how much media coverage will be received, talking and raising awareness about social injustice isn’t enough,” Bradley told ESPN. “Are we that self-centered to believe no one in the world is aware of racism right now? That, as athletes, we solve the real issues by using our platforms to speak?
Bradley added, “We don’t need to say more. We need to find a way to achieve more. Protesting during an anthem, wearing T-shirts is great, but we need to see real actions being put into the works.”
Knowing that Bradley is a leading voice in this discussion, bodes well for the kind of change that he and so many are seeking, has a chance to come to fruition.
When the voice being heard most often from the coalition was Irving, it was clear that getting past the messenger and honing in on the actual message was not going to be easy.
So for those who say Irving doesn’t pass enough, him passing this movement on to the shoulders of Bradley was the absolute smartest move he and the players’ coalition could have made in order to amplify their message to an audience that would be more willing to listen.
And while Bradley’s voice in this discussion resonates in a way few would have envisioned during his time in Boston, it’s clear that the soft-spoken defensive ace was paying attention.
Because this franchise, more than any other, has been an agent of change in the NBA.
First NBA team to draft a Black Player
First NBA team to have a Black Head coach
First NBA team to have an all-Black starting five
First Black coach to win an NBA title
More Black coaches to win NBA titles than any other franchise
The lists of first by the Celtics speaks to the racial balance and equality that the organization has sought to achieve that has been accomplished on many levels.
But these are different times, and there’s still plenty of work to be done.
And we’re seeing more and more current and former Celtics, play a role in bringing about the kind of transformative change so many are seeking in this country right now.
It involves not only changing the way things are done by many, but also a culture shift; the kind that the Celtics, past and present, are quite familiar with.
Avery Bradley, Celtics culture on display as NBA addresses issues of the day originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston