Despite the odds being stacked against him, former Red Sox slugger and Hall of Famer David Ortiz isn’t giving up on the Boston Celtics.
“Big Papi” knows that no NBA team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit like the one the Celtics face in the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat. It has happened 149 times in league history and the team ahead has won the series.
Ortiz and the Red Sox faced seemingly insurmountable odds in 2004 when they trailed the rival New York Yankees 0-3 in the American League Championship Series. They didn’t just come back, Boston won the World Series. It is the only team to do so in MLB history.
Why not the Celtics?
“Yes, and there would be no better time than now for that to happen,” Ortiz said in an interview with The Associated Press Monday morning at his charity golf tournament. “If you do it in basketball, it has to be the same city. You know what I’m talking.”
Ortiz, 47, who was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame last summer, knows how the Celtics should view it.
“At 3-0, you have two options: quit or go back out, and in professional sports, once you get to that point, there’s no way to quit,” said Ortiz, the ALCS MVP. of the American League in 2004. “Once you get there, even if you’re 3-0, you’re not thinking about quitting, you’re thinking, ‘OK, I hit rock bottom. I have to go step by step now. I can’t try to win three games at once.’”
Like the 2004 Red Sox, who were crushed 19-8 in Game 3, the Celtics are coming off a blowout loss in Miami on Sunday night.
Ortiz remembered what the dressing room was like after that game.
“Pretty quiet,” he said in the interview, sitting at an outdoor table near the field. “We were pretty much thinking, ‘Man, they scored a lot of runs in Game 3. We’ve faced those guys more than 20 times and we know what to do to beat them.’ We just weren’t doing it. Get back on the wagon.
Ortiz’s former teammate in 2004, Tim Wakefield, also in the tournament, feels the Celtics need someone to lighten the air.
“They have to have someone like we had with Kevin Millar, to step up and say, ‘Don’t let us win tonight,’” he said. “That really changed our whole behavior. When we walked into the clubhouse for Game 4, we thought we were done.”
Ortiz said that belief is vital.
“I think there is no room for negativity once you get there,” he said. “Every thought has to be in a positive way, every one, for you to get out of it.
“So, we went from never to never and got to that,” he said, breaking out laughing.
Ortiz’s tournament, called the Boston Heart Classic, raises money for children in need of life-saving medical treatment in both his native Dominican Republic and New England.