In the End, Derrick White Showed What Boston Celtics Basketball Is All About

Derrick White

Getty With one dive, Derrick White exemplified what Boston Celtics basketball is all about.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum got most of the headlines as the Boston Celtics won their NBA-best 18th championship. While it was well deserved, there was plenty of credit to go around.

This season was about sacrifice. Every Celtics starter, with the exception of Derrick White, saw their numbers go down from a year ago. That doesn’t mean White was unselfish. In fact, White showed he was anything but unselfish in the series-clinching victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals. White was the perfect example of what Celtics basketball is all about.

Derrick White Is the Perfect Example of a Boston Celtic

It’s unfair to call White a role player these days. When he arrived in Boston via trade with the San Antonio Spurs in 2022, he played a role off the bench. This year, however, he was part of the best starting five in the NBA.

White’s the same player he’s ever been. He’s an all-out hustle guy. He’s the best shot-blocking guard in the NBA, finishing with a career-high 87. If the Celtics need White to score, he’ll score. If they need him to defend, he’ll defend. White can do it all, and it’s usually done quietly while Brown and Tatum generate most of the talk.

White wasn’t so quiet in Game 5 when he dove for a loose ball, slamming his face into the TD Garden floor and chipping a tooth and loosening two others. His motivation was like any other member of the Celtics — win a championship. He didn’t care what it took, and that included losing teeth.

“I dove for the ball, (Dereck) Lively landed on me,” White told reporters after the game. “I knew right away. I’ve chipped it in the past, so it’s not new. It’s loose ant the other two teeth are wiggling. They were trying stuff in the locker room, but I was like, ‘I don’t care. Just play.

“This is what we work for. I’ll lose all my teeth for a championship.”

Sacrifice has been the name of the game for the Celtics season, and White exemplified that with one dive to the floor.

White Credited His Teammates and Organization for His Success

White averaged a career-high 15.2 points this season, but it was all the little things he did that stood out. With Tatum, Brown, and newcomers Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis in the starting lineup, scoring wasn’t something the Celtics needed from him.

White knows his role, and he does it well. He gave credit to his teammates, and he singled out head coach Joe Mazzulla for giving him a chance.

“Man, I love Joe Mazzulla so much,” White said. “Coming off the year I had, and he gets the job, and he’s like, ‘You know what? I’m going to start you.’ Which I wasn’t expecting.

“He was like, ‘I believe in you and I trust in you. This is going to give you the confidence.’ And from that moment on, I think it’s changed my whole career. I’d do anything for him.”

White feels comfortable in Boston, and Celtics fans love him as much as he loves his new environment.

“It’s such a blessing to be a part of this roster,” White said. “They just drive me in so many different ways, from top to bottom. I’m just so thankful and grateful for each and every one of them. They made me a better player and made me a better person. The city of Boston, everything, has just been amazing for me.”

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