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Friday, June 18, 2010
Champions wear hats

By Henry Abbott



The NBA Finals are the pinnacle of the sport. They're also a stressful event for small band of NBA employees who are charged with making certain the champions have championship hats, t-shirts and towels -- branded for their team -- at the ready instantly after the game ends.

In a Game  7, the NBA staffers have to have garb on hand celebrating both the Celtics and the Lakers. On Thursday night, once the Lakers won, those hundreds of Celtics' 2010 champion shirts and hats became an embarrassment. The league goes to great lengths just to make sure no one even takes a photograph of that stuff. (Although, if you live in Africa, you may see some -- eventually those Celtics 2010 NBA champion shirts will be distributed to the needy through NBA Cares.)

The gear that's handed out to the players on the court is printed in Indianapolis and shipped to the NBA's offices in New York. NBA staffers then fly with it -- the biggest of the bags weigh more than 100 pounds each -- to the Finals, where they are kept locked away in a little-known storeroom in the bowels of the Staples Center.

Championship games end in pandemonium. Security, media and crowds of fans ring the court.  Game 7 came down to the wire. The gear for both franchises, therefore, had to be smuggled courtside ready to be distributed to the players quickly after the final buzzer.  Two teams of four people -- one with Laker gear, the other with Celtics' stuff -- worked their way courtside as the game came to an end. Once the Lakers won, one team ran "at a dead sprint" to stash the Celtics gear safely out of sight. The whole process is high adrenaline, and on video.

Many thanks to the people you see in this video, especially Brian Keegan, Vandana Balachandar and Kristin Conte, as well as Kevin Arnovitz, for all their help.