With the NBA Finals moving to the east coast, the Boston Celtics find themselves just three wins away from their first NBA title since 2008. And a certain undersized guard, beloved in Eugene, could be a major reason why.
He may not grab the playing time or headlines that his teammates do, but Payton Pritchard has been an integral piece of the Celtics’ postseason run.
Pritchard has averaged 13.4 minutes per game this postseason for Boston but has had a knack for being on the court in key moments. Pritchard scored 14 points in just 17 minutes in the Celtics’ game seven win against Milwaukee in round two.
A viral moment was born from his game seven performance when he screamed, “that’s what I do!” after draining a dagger three to put Boston up 20 in the fourth quarter.
– Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 15, 2022
No one said he lacked confidence.
That swagger comes from a lifetime of proving doubters wrong. Pritchard is listed at barely over 6-feet and his hometown of West Linn, Oregon isn’t exactly known as an NBA breeding ground.
His lack of pedigree doesn’t seem to bother Pritchard.
“I go out there and hoop regardless. It doesn’t matter to me, ”Pritchard said in a recent interview with the New York Times. “They’ll know my name after the game.”
Before competing for a ring with Boston, Pritchard starred for the Oregon Ducks where he became one of the most accomplished players in school history. Prtichard holds a number of Oregon school records including assists (659), wins (105) games (144) and starts (140).
The Ducks made runs to at least the Sweet Sixteen during March Madness in each season Pritchard was with the team (except in 2020 when the tournament was canceled.)
After his heroics against Milwaukee and an Eastern Conference finals win over Miami, Pritchard helped Boston steal a road win over favored-Golden State in his NBA Finals debut. He played just eight minutes in the game one win. But in those eight minutes, the Celtics outscored Golden State by 18 points.
Pritchard is a natural fit for Boston, a city obsessed with its blue collar identity.
As such, it’s no surprise Pritchard has inspired the New York Times article, multiple dedicated fan accounts and even calls for him to be played by an A-list actor in a hypothetical movie inspired by the Celtics 2021-22 season.
Pritchard isn’t the only former Pac-12 star left fighting for the 2022 NBA title. Teammate and all-star Jaylen Brown was sensational for California during the 2015-16 season. On the Warriors side, Oregon State alum Gary Payton II has become a fan favorite in the Bay, traversing a basketball odyssey to find himself playing on the NBA biggest stage.
Klay Thompson was obviously already a household name, but the former Washington State Cougar has only increased his popularity after overcoming two major surgeries and a nearly three year career hiatus to contribute to another deep playoff run for the Warriors.
With the NBA season so close to its conclusion, which of three stars will continue to beat the odds all the way to a championship ring.