Moments after his team advanced to the NBA Finals, Ime Udoka wasn’t celebrating. He wanted to put something in perspective.
At the end of his postgame press conference Sunday, the Celtics coach — fresh off a 100-96 win over the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena — took time to address the shooting last week in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 elementary-school students and two teachers.
“One thing I do want to say and bring awareness to,” he began, unprompted, “as we’re all celebrating this win, I can’t help but think — you know, when I talk to my son, a 10-year-old — I think about Uvalde and what’s happened.
“We talk about this game that we love and put all our passion into, and it’s not life or death. We win or we lose, we go home and kiss your kids, and you move on either way. We’ll be happy if we win and we would be down if we lost.
“But you sit back and think about 19 children and two adults that don’t get that. That’s life or death. That’s real. That’s something that I don’t want to be forgotten, the awareness of that.
“It just happened a week ago, and it seems to be pushed in people’s memory already. Change is needed. It’s a game that we play. Regardless of the result, it’s not life or death. Bottom line. Just keep that in our minds.”
It wasn’t the first time Udoka addressed the shooting. On Wednesday, ahead of Game 5 in Miami, he noted Uvalde’s proximity to San Antonio, where Udoka played and coached for several years.
“It’s a tough one, and being in San Antonio for all those years, Uvalde is very close,” Udoka said then. “You see the [highway] signs all the time, it’s a 60- to 75-minute drive away. It’s a tragic situation for that community, for our country in general.”
Udoka’s son is the same age as a number of the children who died.
“It’s the first thing you think about as a father of a 10-year-old,” he said Wednesday. “Getting those calls or that frantic news and just unimaginable, honestly, to find yourself in that situation as a parent.”
Udoka also criticized the lack of action despite the deadly shootings in the past few weeks in the United States.
“It seems these things continue to happen, and not much of a wake-up call and nothing really changes,” he said. “And so that’s the thing that stands out. What’s next? Things happen last week in Buffalo and this one yesterday. What’s going to happen? What’s going to change? That’s the underlying theme.”
Udoka wasn’t the only one to try to raise awareness around gun control during this series.
Both the Celtics and Heat held moments of silence for the victims before games. Both teams urged fans to contact their senators, saying fans can demand that their senators support common-sense gun laws.
And during his postgame press conference Sunday, Heat center Bam Adebayo also had a real-world message, closing his press conference by simply saying: “Black lives matter.”
Read more Celtics stories
- ‘Feels like it was always meant to be this way:’ How the Celtics escaped the Heat and set up a seismic NBA Finals
- Dan Shaughnessy: Finally, the Celtics earn their chance to bring another championship to Boston
- On Basketball: When things got tough, this Celtics team got tough — and they finally proved they belong with the elite
- How it happened: Celtics fend off Heat in Game 7, 100-96, to advance to NBA Finals for first time since 2010
- Instant analysis: Celtics claw out a Game 7 they never trailed, and other observations
- Celtics-Warriors NBA Finals series tips off Thursday in San Francisco; see the schedule
- Four things to know about the Warriors, the Celtics’ opponent in the 2022 NBA Finals
- Jayson Tatum, sporting No. 24 band in honor of Kobe Bryant, wins inaugural Larry Bird trophy
- Jimmy Butler nearly carried the Heat to the NBA Finals, but can’t deny it: Celtics ‘deserve the win’