Brown Overcomes Tragedy, Pushes C’s Past Dubs

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown played with more emotion than usual Thursday night when his Boston Celtics took on the Golden State Warriors at TD Garden.

It wasn’t because of the marquee matchup against the defending NBA champs, and it wasn’t because the C’s were riding a 13-game winning streak.

It was because Brown’s best friend Trevin Steede had passed away the night before, and basketball was the one thing that could keep him going.

Brown nearly couldn’t find the strength to play after learning of Steede’s passing. He called coach Brad Stevens and said that he was unable to focus and didn’t want to be a hindrance to the team.

But then Steede’s mother called Brown and inspired him to play for her son. So he went out and played his heart out, tallying a team-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks, while helping the Celtics to a 92-88 win over the Dubs.

“It was tough to accept it,” Brown said of losing his longtime friend. “Everybody was kind of in shock. I knew coming in today that he would’ve wanted me to play. It was hard getting my thoughts together, but after talking to his mom and his family, they inspired me to come out and play, because I wasn’t in any shape to come out. I didn’t want to leave my room, but they inspired me to come out and play, and I came out and played in his spirit.”

His effort would have made Steede proud.

Brown was the major spark that helped Boston overcome a 17-point deficit in the third quarter. He made huge shots on the offensive end, electrifying blocks on the defensive end, and made hustle plays all over the court that caused the TD Garden crowd to go wild.

However, Brown was completely tuned out of the stimulating atmosphere. He was playing in a trance, with Steede’s spirit guiding the way.

“I just felt like I was out there playing, like I didn’t know who was out there,” said Brown. “It just felt like it was me and him.”

Steede was the first friend Brown made when he transferred to Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia. Brown recalled sitting alone at lunch during his first few days at school, until Steede, one of his new basketball teammates, invited Brown to sit with him. Brown greatly appreciated the kind act, especially considering that he would likely be taking minutes away from Steede on the basketball court.

“Ever since then, that’s been my brother,” Brown said as he fought back tears.

Brown’s other brothers – his Celtics teammates – gave him an incredible lift Thursday night, as well. Kyrie Irving in particular helped Brown get through the challenging night.

Irving is familiar with the concept of personal loss, having dealt with his mother’s death at the age of four. He offered Brown some words of wisdom to help him push past the pain.

“I told him before the game,” said Irving, “‘the physical presence that you lost, that was just a physical realm. The energy that your best friend was carrying is still with you, so don’t you ever forget that.’ And he showed that tonight.”

Irving presented Brown with the game ball after the emotional win, and the pair embraced.

“’Ky gave me the game ball and said, ‘This one was for Trevin,’” said Brown. “That meant a lot to me.”

Brown’s willingness to play under such circumstances meant a lot to his teammates, as well. He displayed tremendous perseverance, fighting through his emotions and using basketball as a therapeutic escape.

Brown played with Steede on his shoulders, and together they guided the Celtics to an inspirational win over the defending NBA champions.