By Sterling Pingree
In the spirit of complete transparency, I have never actually met Cedric Maxwell. Never had a face to face, a handshake or a bro hug. Now, that all might change at The Drive event this Tuesday at the Sea Dog, when Celtics radio broadcasters Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell come to town for what should be a wonderful night of sports talk, laughs and good food. (Get your tickets at DriveShowMaine.com/Events, just $15, what a deal!?!) Where I’ve never met “Max” I will never forget when I was first introduced to him: the date was February 5, 1993. I recall the date because it was the day after Larry Bird Night at the Boston Garden and I remember it all like it was yesterday, because I watched it again last night.
One of the greatest things my dad ever did when I was growing up (and there are many) was when the Boston Celtics had Larry Bird Night at the Boston Garden on February 4, 1993, he taped it for me! I remember this being such a big deal that the Celtics sold out the Garden that night, WITHOUT A GAME! I’ve almost worn this VHS tape out, but had the presence of mind to dub it over to DVD a few years ago. Some may think that I’m talking too highly of this tape but this night had everything: video packages, Celtic greats, Red Auerbach and even Magic Johnson was on hand to see #33 go up to the rafters.
The Celtics set up a parquet stage at center court with 5 stools; one for Larry, one for the MC Bob Costas and 3 for former teammates. Each segment of the show featured different important figures from Larry’s career. Everybody from each of Bird’s 3 championships were there, except Danny Ainge who was still playing that season for the Phoenix Suns, he recorded a greeting. One by one the championship teams of 1981, 1984 and 1986 came to the stage and the 3 most select members of that team was given a microphone and a stool to join Bird and Costas up front. For the 1981 team, those three were Coach Bill Fitch, Nate “Tiny” Archibald and Cedric Maxwell.
After softball questions to Archibald and Fitch, Bob Costas asked “Max, what’s it like to be back at the Boston Garden?” Before Maxwell could answer, the capacity crowd rose to their feet and gave him a rousing standing ovation. Watching this unfold as a kid, I didn’t know why this moment was important or why Max was getting such a warm and vocal welcome from the Boston faithful. I didn’t know about the hard feelings between Max and the Celtics after he was traded to Clippers for Bill Walton in the year I was born or that this marked the first time he returned for a team function since the trade, let alone wore a Celtics uniform.
After the applause died down, and the crowd was acknowledged, I got my initial introduction to Max’s personality. Max was given a gold coin to give to Bird and he said “They gave me the gift, so I guess I’m going to take it home with me. I’m proud to give you this……what the hell is this?” At which point everybody lost it. When the laughter died down Max told Costas “And I’m after your job!”
This was my informal introduction to Cedric Maxwell, and I haven’t stopped being entertained since. I’ve listened to him on countless Celtic broadcasts with Sean Grande and since returning to the team on Larry Bird night over 24 years ago, Max has never left. I look forward to Tuesday night and the chance to meet and talk to Cedric Maxwell, even though I feel like I’ve known him for years already.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.