BOSTON Through a haze of his own cigar smoke, Paul Pierce peered through sleepless eyes at the sea of green-clad fans and thrust his golden MVP trophy skyward.
His day had finally arrived. A day to ride in his own championship parade. A day that gave normal people a chance to wave signs, paint their faces in Celtics colors and scream their hearts out for the latest team to bring a title to town.
"We're tired of watching these parades on TV. Now we get to enjoy our own," Pierce said after a fantastic season that followed nine frustrating ones in his Boston career. "I haven't had any sleep yet, so now I'm still enjoying it."
The Celtics earned Thursday's "rolling rally" celebration with an amazing season topped off by a dominant 131-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NBA finals. Pierce was the series MVP.
It was the Celtics' first title without Red Auerbach, the team patriarch who died in October 2006 after being part of the other 16 championships, nine as coach. The cigars smoked by players and fans were a tribute to Auerbach's custom of lighting one up on the bench in the waning moments of another win.
"We wish he could be here," Pierce said before he lit his cigar, "so I'm doing this to honor him."Players rode in the amphibious tourist vehicles like those used by soldiers in World War II. They also transported the New England Patriots after their Super Bowl championships in February of 2002, 2004 and 2005 and the Boston Red Sox after their World Series victories in October 2004 and 2007.
BARKLEY ENTERS POKER EVENT: Charles Barkley is headed back to the tables in Las Vegas to play in a poker tournament about a month after pledging not to gamble. He says it's all for charity. The former NBA star is scheduled to play in a celebrity poker tournament at the 2008 World Series of Poker on July 2. The "Ante Up for Africa" event is designed to raise money and awareness for the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, where more than 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since ethnic warfare began in 2003., according to the U.S. presidential envoy to Sudan. Players in the poker tournament put up $5,000 to play, and are asked to donate at least half their winnings.
TESTIMONY ENDS TODAY: U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman has freely acknowledged she doesn't follow basketball. But on Thursday she got a glimpse into the world of wounded Seattle SuperSonics' superfans, courtesy of Author, poet, humorist and Seattle SuperSonics' season ticket-holder Sherman Alexie was called upon in U.S. District Court to describe the team's importance to the community Thursday. "I want two more years," he pleaded during the federal trial to determine whether the SuperSonics can move to Oklahoma City or must honor the remaining two years of their KeyArena lease. Testimony in the case was expected to wrap up Friday with three witnesses, including former Sonics president Wally Walker. Closing arguments are scheduled for June 26.
NBA FINALS MOST-WATCHED: The NBA finals games were the six highest-rated and most-watched programs so far in June, the first time that has happened in seven years. Boston's victory over the Los Angeles Lakers averaged a 9.3 rating for the series, up 50 percent over the 6.2 for San Antonio's sweep of Cleveland last year. The Celtics' Game 6 clincher on Tuesday earned a 10.7 rating on ABC, averaging 16.9 million viewers over the course of the game. Game 5, two nights earlier, averaged 17.4 million viewers.