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Remember back to the start of the 2007-2008 season when Doc Rivers and the new look Celtics, touting highly regarded free agent signings Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen alongside perennial all-star Paul Pierce, flew overseas to Rome to get to know each other away from the distracting Boston media scene. The newly dubbed “Big Three”, a term once reserved only for the likes of Bird, McHale, and Parish, prepared to ignite a fire under a team that had just endured an abysmal season including the worst losing streak in the history of the NBA. You could feel the excitement and anticipation growing in the streets of Back Bay. Meanwhile, behind the glamour of the press and the humorous “This is Sportscenter” commercials, a coach buckled down to business. With a much more experienced and talented roster, Doc Rivers was poised to lead a team with championship aspirations. However, unlike many coaches of the modern era, Doc Rivers knew the one thing that mattered more than talent: camaraderie. During those couple weeks in Rome, Doc found a simple theme that would seal the bond between his players.
“Ubuntu!” the Celtics shout as they break their huddle after practice. Coach Doc Rivers says he chose the chant over the typical “1, 2, 3, Celtics!” after reading about Bishop Desmond Tutu over the summer. “Ubuntu,” from the African Bantu language, stresses collective success over individual achievement.
This esotericism would prove to be the glue that held the 2007-2008 Celtics together during their miraculous run at banner seventeen.
Throughout the next three seasons, the Celtics continued to use the term in their chants, as seen in this 2010 promotional video.