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Celtics Coach Wears His Christian Faith on His Shirt Live on ESPN After Winning NBA Title

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Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

Success often reveals a person’s true character and priorities.

In the very public moments following the Boston Celtics’ 106-88 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on June 17, which secured the franchise’s NBA-best 18th world championship, 35-year-old Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla did not don a traditional championship T-shirt.

Instead, he wore a simple black T-shirt with a powerful message in white lettering: “BUT FIRST … LET ME THANK GOD.”

Mazzulla first sported the shirt during the postgame trophy presentation.

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When ESPN’s Lisa Salters asked Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck about the team’s ability to overcome the pressure of high expectations, Grousbeck credited his head coach.

“The brilliance of Joe Mazzulla is that he wouldn’t let expectations get in the way,” the owner said. Boston fans cheered at the mention of Mazzulla’s name.

Moments later, Salters turned to the head coach. At that point, fans began chanting “Zuuuu” for “Mazzulla.”

Rather than bask in the attention, however, the second-year coach and first-time NBA champion addressed his first priority.

“For us, for me, our faith is the most important thing,” he said.



Then, Mazzulla appeared on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” while still sporting the same T-shirt.

In the course of a nearly five-minute interview, Mazzulla introduced several Christian themes.

First, when asked about the performance of his team’s two superstars, Jayson Tatum and Finals MVP Jaylen Brown, Mazzulla cited “their humility, their patience, their work ethic and their togetherness.”

Then, when asked about his own contribution to the championship, he deflected attention by crediting past coaches and staff members.

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Finally, the young coach expressed his gratitude to God.

“Yeah, it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing. I don’t deserve it. But because of grace I’m here,” Mazzulla said.

All the while, the ESPN audience got a full view of the coach’s shirt and its message.



By the time the postgame news conference ended, Mazzulla still had not changed his T-shirt. Here is a brief clip of the humble young coach leaving the news conference, posted to the social media platform X:

According to the Catholic News Agency, Mazzulla — a “devout Catholic” — plans to visit the Holy Land after winning the NBA championship.

In fact, he intends to walk from Jericho to Jerusalem.

“And it will be kind of like just our reconnect. But we went last year and we stopped right along this mountainside of the Kidron Valley, and you could see a path in between the mountains … [and] during the time, the only way that [Jesus] could have gotten from Jericho to Jerusalem was through this valley. And right there I was like, ‘We have to walk that,'” he said.

Speaking of which, Mazzulla also made a special daily walk around TD Garden, the Celtics’ home arena.

“I like to get to the arena at, like, noon. I like to do a prayer walk around the court,” he said in a video posted to YouTube this year by NBC Sports Boston.



The NBA, of course, has a well-earned reputation for nauseating wokeness. But Mazzulla — much like Orlando Magic power forward and fellow Christian Jonathan Isaac — has defeated race-mongering Marxism by using that insidious ideology’s “Kryptonite“: Christianity.

For instance, while speaking to reporters after Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Mazzulla encountered a race-baiting reporter who went fishing for a woke comment about the Finals featuring two black head coaches for the first time since 1975. Like Mazzulla, Mavericks head coach and Hall of Famer Jason Kidd has one black parent and one white parent.

Did you watch any of the NBA Finals?

“Given the plight, sometimes, of black head coaches in the NBA, do you think this is a significant moment? Do you take pride in this? How do you view this, or do you not see it at all?” the reporter asked.

“I wonder how many of those have been Christian coaches?” Mazzulla replied. Ten seconds of awkward silence ensued.

Thank God for Joe Mazzulla, his Christian character and his courage to proclaim the truth to the woke NBA world.


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Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.
Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.




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