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On Sunday, Marcus Smart returned to TD Garden for the first time since the trade that made him a member of the Memphis Grizzlies and brought Kristaps Porzingis to Boston.

While a severe right ring finger injury had him sporting a splint and unable to play, it didn't subdue the emotions of a crowd that came primarily to celebrate the player who became the heart and soul of the franchise and a person whose impact within the community built an unbreakable bond with the city.

Before the C's and Grizzlies squared off, Smart told Inside The Celtics, "Boston is definitely a second home for me," while discussing how, after arriving as a 20-year-old, his adopted city shaped him as he grew into an adult.

"I spent a little bit over half of my life here, almost," continued the Flower Mound, Texas native. "Like you said, I got here when I was 20; now, I'm about to be turning 30 in March. So -- whew -- I can go on all day about everything that I've experienced here. But -- just -- the way that Boston took me in -- you know -- we all know playing in this city isn't the easiest, and there's plenty of times where they let us know about it, especially me.

"But everything is always great here, and I speak for everybody, opposing teams and guys who have played here, that it's nothing like playing in this place and playing in this city and with these fans. And they allowed me to grow. They allowed me to see a different side of myself. And they watched me become a man. So, my favorite things will always be here. But they definitely have shaped my life and in many ways."


After her passing in September 2018, he hosted a private dinner for families staying in Boston Children's Hospital's patient housing, where he sat down with each and every person there, per a highly recommended and poignant story from Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

It's a reflection of his impact within the community, which included quietly becoming a regular at local hospitals, brightening the day for countless children throughout the near-decade he spent in Boston.

That started immediately upon getting drafted by the Celtics in 2014. He spent his first day in his new city visiting children battling pediatric cancer, amongst other illnesses.

Starting in 2016, Smart donated mobile charging stations equipped with tablets and video game consoles called 'Smart Carts.' These entertainment hubs provided a form of communication and a welcome diversion during patients' treatment and recovery.

A year later, he launched the YounGameChanger Foundation. It's a source of guidance, motivation, encouragement, and empowerment for inner-city student-athletes to be GameChangers within and outside of sports. It also provides inspiration and life-changing experiences to pediatric cancer patients and their families.

Since the YounGameChanger Foundation's launch, it has created opportunities through education, sports, and mentorships with an emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) experiences.

Smart, a past recipient of the Celtics' community hero honor for his work off the court to uplift the city he starred in, is who the organization selected as Sunday's Hero Among Us.

It's a well-deserved recognition that also allowed the TD Garden faithful an additional moment dedicated to showing their love for a player and person who will forever be in their hearts.

Not that there was any doubt, but before Boston comfortably cruised to a 131-91 win over the shorthanded Grizzlies, while discussing his message to Celtics fans and what he wants them to know, Smart flashed a smile and conveyed to this author, "Thank you guys. I love you guys forever. You guys will always be in my heart. Boston will always be in here. So, never forgotten. And thank you."

Further Reading

Marcus Smart, Celtics Discuss His Return to TD Garden: 'Forever Be Etched into the City'

Celtics Accountable, Ready to Move on After Loss to Starless Lakers

Celtics' Fending Off Pacers' Second-Half Surge Reflects Their Determination to 'Fight Through Everything'

Derrick White Opens Up About Shooting Slump After Propelling Celtics Past Pelicans: 'Don't Feel Sorry for Yourself'

Celtics Maturation Molded by Experience: 'It Builds, Like, an Armor'

Celtics Finding Joy in Basketball and Each Other's Company: 'We've Been Blessed'

Fixated on Winning, Jayson Tatum Again Proves He's Not 'Bored Making the Right Play Over and Over'

Brad Stevens Shares What Celtics Are Looking to Add and How He Hopes to Do So

Jaylen Brown Quieting Doubters, Validating What He Always Believed: 'Earn Everybody's Trust'

Joe Mazzulla Discusses Identity, Evolution of Celtics' Offense: 'Balance of Pace and Execution'

Jaylen Brown Shares His View of What Defines 'Celtics Basketball'