There are stories that everyone wants to talk about in these Finals: Kendrick Perkins‘ knee, Kobe Bryant‘s legacy, and the Celtics’ age. In the midst of all those stories, the tales of two Celtics players have not been shared at all. They are two players who have not played a single minute in these playoffs. Most people have never heard of them, yet if the Celtics win tonight, they will get championship rings along with their teammates. Their names are Oliver Lafayette and Tony Gaffney.
Gaffney is a homegrown talent who grew up bleeding Celtic green, as shown in this YouTube video of his basement. He was raised in Boston before going on to play for Boston University then transferring to the University of Massachusets-Amherst. After graduating last season, Gaffney went to training camp with the Lakers and was the last man cut on their roster. He proceeded to play for Hapoel Gilboa Galil Elyon in Israel before a foot injury forced him back to the U.S. On April 13, Gaffney received a dream contract offer to play for his all-time favorite team. He signed a contract that day, and has been with the team ever since, serving his role as a practice squad player. Antwon Jackson, an assistant coach at UMASS had this to say about Gaffney:
“He is a live body who brings length and athleticism to practice that I think the Celtics like about him,” says Jackson. “He will always compete, and will do his best in his role for the team. I also had a chance to talk with Tony when he came to campus during the Orlando series, and he is living the dream. He’s a humble kid who is just very grateful for the chance he’s been given. He grew up in the Boston area and starred at UMASS, so he grew up rooting for the Celtics. So for him to have the chance to be part of the Celtics organization at all is a dream come true, and for him to be there while they are winning and in the NBA Finals is almost surreal for him.”
Lafayette didn’t grow up rooting for the Celtics though, as he grew up in Baton Rouge, La. He spent this season playing in the D-League for coach Joey Meyer of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. When asked about Oliver, Coach Meyer only had good things to say.
“Oliver has an amazing story,” says Meyer. “He was cut from the Erie BayHawks at the beginning of the D-League season, signed with us in Fort Wayne and now he is on the Celtics. It’s amazing how far he has come.”
Lafayette is unlike most D-League players who sign 10-day contracts with teams not contending for an NBA title (Reggie Williams and Anthony Tolliver from the Warriors come to mind), and in the middle of the D-League season. Not only did Lafayette sign with the playoff-bound Celtics, but Meyer said he signed with them after their season was over.
“It was the offseason already for us. I’ve never seen something like that where a guy signs with a team from the D-League in our offseason in my nine years coaching in the League.”
Lafayette signed on April 15, just in time to suit up for the Celtics’ last game of the regular season. In that game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Lafayette scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds in 22 minutes. Since that game, he has been relegated to essentially a practice player like Gaffney, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been enjoying the ride.
Oliver Lafayette and Tony Gaffney prove that anything is possible. They show that if you work hard enough and continually pursue your dream, it can happen. And while they have not played a second in these NBA Playoffs, they deserve a ring if the Celtics win tonight for coming in and doing their job just like the other 13 guys on the team.
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @dgm591.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.