When Derrick White was traded to the Celtics in February, Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec couldn’t wait to get to his phone.
He had to text White. Dalbec never fathomed that the pair would be living in the same city playing for teams that carry such significance.
There was something else, though, that had Dalbec so elated: The friendship that has bound the two together for more than a decade.
“That’s my guy,” White said recently. ”As soon as I got traded, he texted me.”
The bond was formed at Legend High School in Parker, Colo. The year was 2010. Dalbec was just a freshman but playing varsity basketball. White was on the team, a class ahead. Dalbec moved on from the sport when his basketball coach asked him to play AAU ball in the summer — it would have interfered with Dalbec’s baseball travel schedule.
Still, the relationship between the two was already forged.
Dalbec, who had White’s No. 9 jersey delivered to him in spring training this year, praised his friend for not only his basketball skills but also the resolve it took for White to get to where is, playing in an Eastern Conference semifinal against the Bucks set to begin Sunday.
“He was a guy that was counted out a lot, too,” Dalbec said. “He had to go to Division 2 Colorado Springs. Had to sit out a year [after transferring], and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, ‘I want you.’ So, it was pretty cool. Now, he’s on the Celtics and it will be cool to go see him play.”
White’s story is well-told. He initially went to Division 3 Johnson & Wales in Denver, where he was on the basketball team but not on scholarship. He then transferred to nearby Division 2 Colorado-Colorado Springs, where he became the school leader in points (1,912) and assists (343) during his three-year career.
White would transfer again, this time to Colorado. He sat out a year because of the NCAA transfer rule before becoming a headline player for the Buffaloes during his senior season in 2016-17. White averaged 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game, earning him All-Pac-12 honors. He impressed Popovich and the Spurs enough to get drafted at No. 29.
As for Dalbec, his career arc had a more linear path: He starred at Arizona as a third baseman and a pitcher before the Red Sox took him in the fourth round in 2016.
All along, White knew Dalbec’s commitment to baseball. But he intimated that the Sox first baseman was a good hooper, as well.
“Bobby could shoot,” said White. “He had a nice little jump shot. He was big, good size; his basketball IQ I think needed some work but Bobby was solid. I’m not sure how good he said he was, but he was pretty good for us. He was big off the bench.”
Now, their relationship is intertwined in a market that devours its sports. At this moment, White is getting first-hand experience of what it means to play in Boston during a playoff run. Dalbec experienced it last year when the Red Sox were just two games away from the World Series. He had to let his friend know just what he’s in for.
“It’s awesome,” Dalbec said. “I just told him there’s no better city to be on a winning team than Boston and just enjoy and take it one game at a time. I feel like that’s what he’s doing and I feel like the Celtics are doing.”
Dalbec and his Sox are struggling, posting an 8-12 record. Dalbec is hitting just .154 on the year with one home run.
But the road it took for the two to get to this point in their careers, playing in the same city for organizations that are considered the pinnacle of professional sports is something to be celebrated.
“It’s crazy, two kids from Legend, a brand new high school, we were the first two graduating classes, to two kids now in Boston,” White said. “It’s pretty crazy. I’m super excited for him to get out here.”
White already has Dalbec’s jersey, too.