The future will be all mind. There will be pictures of the Garden and the events, of course, better pictures from each succeeding year, but cameras cannot capture day-to-day existence. Cameras cannot record smells and all sounds. There will be numbers, records, the Celtics with 1,287 wins in 1,709 home games (a handful in the smaller Boston Arena) as of Sunday, but numbers are not descriptions of people and places and situations and emotions. The building and the things that happened in it will exist primarily in the minds of the people who were there. Truth will be carried in a fragile envelope.
"Memory is a strange thing," Cousy says. "I went out to dinner with Tommy Heinsohn the other night with some advertising clients. We sat there for two hours, 2½ hours, telling all the old stories. Tommy was going on and on, telling these stories, and half of them I'd never heard before. Or didn't remember. I mean I was there when these things happened, and I didn't remember any of them the same way. Time passes, you know, and you can say anything, and it can sound right.
"With any successful business, any successful person, you can pick out reasons for the success that have nothing to do with it but sound as good as anything else. Do you know what I mean? The Celtic mystique. The Garden. I hear so many things that are ridiculous, yet they have been repeated so many times they sound true. Everything sounds true now."
There will be a ceremony to mark the final regular-season Garden game. A last ceremony. The plan is for 28 Celtic heroes to return, as many as possible. At halftime they will pass a ball back and forth.
Bird will stand in the corner. Three-point territory.
He will take a pass and raise the ball as if to shoot. Suddenly, visitors from all of NBA history will come flying in an imaginary pack, all of them, Wilt and Kareem and Magic and Dr. J and Senator Bill Bradley and World B. Free and Walter (Big Bells) Bellamy and Moses and Oscar and Jerry West and Isiah and Elgin and Air Jordan, himself. All of them. Bird will pull the ball back down.
Russell will walk to a spot underneath the basket. All alone.
He will take the pass from Bird and make the easy layup, and the doors will close on an era. Not only will the Garden era, the Celtic era, be gone, but also the era of old-time arenas, the cramped and crowded, working-class, big-city athletic show-places. The oldest building in the NBA will become the Los Angeles Sports Arena, built in 1959. The L.A. Sports Arena?
Ten years from now, no more than 15, the final shot will become a dunk. Russell dunked and the backboard shattered and everyone left and the Boston Garden was closed and the rats ran into the sea. That was the way it was.