The Celtics led by 20 against the Bucks in the third quarter on Monday, and my mind wandered as Lucky the mascot was doing his thing during a timeout. Most teams still feature traditional mascots (i.e., someone in a full raptor, hornet or bull suit, to keep kids engaged), but not the Celtics.
They switched from a cartoonish leprechaun, complete with a giant head, to a real-live human in 2003. They described him as “unmasked Lucky,” the league’s only “human mascot,” free from the constraints of a costume, but let’s call him what he really is — a grown man dressed as a leprechaun.
If you thought it was weird that the Suns have a gorilla mascot, take a long look at the dude wearing velvet knickers, a shamrock-covered vest, an oversized bowtie and a bowler hat, smiling on the outside and God-knows-what on the inside. Unless Lucky went full leprechaun and smoked a pipe on the end of the bench, Red Auerbach would not have stood for this.
Let’s pause the history lesson here and get to the real comedy. Five years into his gig, after the Celtics won their first title in 22 years, ol’ unmasked Lucky got a little too big for his green britches, probably figuring he had just as much to do with the influx of sold-out crowds as Kevin Garnett, and this is the story of his undoing as told by a C’s employee at the time and forwarded to me by a friend (and now a subscriber here, so cheers).
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 2:07 PM
Subject: Re: Lucky
Well, it’s a really long story. But I’ll try and make it as brief as possible.
Things have been getting worse over the past year for Damon (that’s Lucky). Even before the 07-08 season he started bitching about his salary. And he gets paid more than you think — the rumor around here is that it’s in the 85-95k range. And it’s basically a part time job. Plus, he gets a bonus for appearances, so he’s easily in six figures. They didn’t end up giving a bump before last season, so he ended up blowing off a few appearances. The brass was a little pissed, but nothing major.
Anyway, after the C’s won it last year, it definitely went to his head. This year, he demanded a makeshift “meditation room” be made available so he could get to meditate before every game. He’s huge into that. But people from outside would walk by the closed door and hear him pumping himself up by saying things like “This is your game Damon” and “No one is better than you Damon.” It was hilarious. I personally walked by once and heard him blaring some kind of techno and just yelling out loud screams.
Also, this year he started referring to himself in the third person. And better yet, as “Lucky,” instead of Damon. He did end up getting a raise this year, but I don’t think it was much — so he was pissed off again.
But a few weeks ago, he started having creative differences with the game producer (his boss). Damon wanted to start introducing the players before the game — instead of having the announcer do it. He also wanted to start traveling with the team to away games. Plus, he HATED Coach Willie Maye and thought that he should be doing the in-game interviews instead of Willie. Apparently the two of them had words on more than one occasion. But everyone here loves Willie, and that didn’t go over so well. So, the higher-ups were starting to get fed up with his BS anyway.
Anyway, the other day, there was some kind of fundraiser for Children’s Hospital or something and he strictly refused to show up unless we sent a limo to pick him up at his house in Quincy. We obviously didn’t send a limo, but told him to take a cab and we’d pay for it. He refused to do this and actually told his boss “Lucky doesn’t take cabs.” An actual quote.
Anyway, that was the last straw and we let him go yesterday.
What a story. “This is your game Damon” and “Lucky doesn’t take cabs” are just all-time lines — classics that need to go down in Celtics lore with “Havlicek stole the ball” and ” This is ridiculous.” You can’t make this stuff up. It goes to show you that, even when you’re making six figures to wear a bad leprechaun costume, it’s never enough. Greed is a powerful drug.
Here is Damon Lee Blust in all his glory, the first person on the court to awkwardly congratulate Paul Pierce after a 2005 game-winner, even before Dan Dickau(!), which is either a sign that those Celtics weren’t all that into winning or that Lucky considered himself a member of the team. Or both.
There were rumors of a rift back then, but the extent of Lucky’s shenanigans weren’t made public until now. Still, we should have suspected the diva attitude, since he left nuggets from his pot of gold in the Globe story announcing their “mutual agreement” to part ways.
“At 33, I’m not getting any younger,” Damon told the paper in 2009, “and like most professional athletes there comes a time to step out of the limelight and focus on a career that can be sustained at an older age.”
Like most professional athletes.
The C’s posted the job that summer. Among the requirements: “Reliable transportation to and from all home games and appearances is required.”
The team then hired Kit Ackermann, who remains the mascot today, which means the Celtics have had two human mascots in a 15-year span. This lends to a theory that you have to be wildly ridiculous — like not showing up at a children’s charity event because “Lucky doesn’t take cabs” ridiculous — to lose what seems to be an extremely cush job. I’ll let you be the judge whether or not Kit takes mascot life as seriously as Damon did.
“Hi, my name is Kit Ackermann. I’m 28 years old, from Memphis, Tenn., but for the last seven years, I’ve lived up in Massachusetts, where I perform for the Boston Celtics,” he said in a hype video for a 2016 acrobat dunk contest in Budapest that was viewed fewer than 40 times before I stumbled upon it. (This also means he’s held the job since he was 21.)
“So, I’ve been at this for about 10 years now, and since Day 1 it’s always been about progression. It’s been about personal progression, the progression of your team and ultimately the progression of the sport. And in that time I’ve seen some incredible steps forward, but never anything like this. This is so exciting to watch our sport truly evolve into a sport, to no longer be a performance, but a real competition.”
Lucky’s in-game perf—,er, competition — which includes running around with a giant flag, trying to get the crowd amped by doing wacky stuff and occasionally firing a T-shirt gun — all builds up to him jumping off a trampoline to do some acrobatic dunks. He is followed by a group of other people called the “Celtics Dunk Team” who do acrobatic dunks off trampolines as well. Brad Stevens also once dunked off a trampoline. Methinks doing dunks off trampolines isn’t, like, the height of sport.
But every time I begin to cast Lucky off as just some dude dressed as a leprechaun doing dunks off trampolines 41 nights a year for six figures, I’m reminded Ackermann once fractured his fibia and tore three ligaments in his ankle after failing to land on the mat during a 12-foot trampoline dunk at practice. That’s essentially the same injury Gordon Hayward suffered in the season opener, and Lucky returned to the court in two months.
And an astute reader also reminded me that, not long after the Celtics let Damon go in January 2009, Garnett suffered a knee injury that derailed a season in which the C’s looked destined to repeat as NBA champions.
So, maybe Lucky is more than just a human mascot?
Before Monday’s game, I passed Lucky 2.0, dressed in the same velvet knickers, shamrock-covered vest, oversized bowtie and bowler hat as his predecessor, doing more pull-ups than I could count on a makeshift chin-up bar in the bowels of TD Garden. An ex-military man turned Celtics security guard muttered under his breath, “Wow, that’s incredible.” As it turns out, he was talking about the grown man dressed as a leprechaun.