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How a Celtics ball boy ended up on the Knicks bench


As a New York kid, Gerald Brown grew up a Knicks fan. He was one of the lucky kids and got to work as a ball boy for the Knicks. After he moved to Boston for college, Brown managed to get the same position with the Celtics. Everything was going great for him until one day, Red Auerbach fired him for being a Knicks fan.

But why did the Celtics fire a former Knicks ball boy in the first place? Did they think a kid from New York who was a Knicks ball bay was a Celtics fan? It turns out Brown earned their trust when he made sure Larry Bird plays against the Nets.

"The Celtics were playing the Nets and somebody had stolen Larry Bird’s uniform or whatever. The Gerry Cosby (sporting goods) store right next to the Garden had made uniforms, and the Celtics paid for me to take a cab to the Meadowlands. So I brought the jersey, and I came back. That started a conversation about working for the Celtics down the road.”

Gerald Brown, NY Daily News

As luck would have it, the Celtics and Knicks finished fourth and fifth in the Eastern Conference and faced off in a five-game series in 1990. Brown got a ride to the Garden from Larry Bird, who lived close to his college, Mount Ida. Take a moment to let that sink in. Larry Bird, before a playoff game, picked up a ball boy. Here's how the drive went by.

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“He talked so much trash it was ridiculous. It was so funny. He said, ‘I’m going to kill Johnny Newman. He can’t guard me. I’m going to get 50 on him today.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s just nonstop,’ I thought it was going to be awkward and silent, but he was just like, ‘Yo, the Knicks are terrible.’ And he was just killing everybody. Anybody you tell him, ‘Tell them to guard me.’ And he was really animated about it.”

Gerald Brown, NY Daily News

After arriving at the Garden, Brown was fired. The explanation was that Red Auerbach saw him cheering for the Knicks. He would later find out it was Bird who noticed him cheering for the Knicks while the Celtics were going over the tape from Game 1. Larry mentioned something to Red, and he thought Bird was serious about it, which he wasn't. 

Brown walked towards the Knicks locker room in tears when Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing spotted him. He told them what had happened, and the Knicks were having none of that. Brown spent the rest of the series on the team bench.

The Celtics took a 2-0 lead, but the Knicks managed to win the next three games and go on to face the Pistons. On the telecast, Brown, decked out in a Knicks hat and jacket, is spotted celebrating the final moments on the bench. Apparently, Oakley and Gerald Wilkins were trying to prod Brown into defacing the Celtics mascot. Brown didn't like the idea.

Hell nah, I got to live up here.

Gerald Brown, NY Daily News

Even in such sweet victory, he knew there are certain things you don't do in Boston. Still, Brown had the last laugh that year. 

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