PORTLAND, Maine — Tacko Fall has been mobbed enough times by fans to the point where there’s very little that those who want a piece of Tacko can do that will surprise him.
And then he came to Maine as one of the newest members of the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ G-League affiliate.
He hasn’t been in town too long, but he can tell that their passion for the team runs deep.
And that passion has led to some pretty unusual interactions and autograph requests for Tacko, like the fan who wanted him to sign their forehead and another wanting him to write his name on their hand.
“A lady wanted me to take a picture the other day and she just sat on my lap,” Tacko recalled. “They’re just very friendly. People in Maine, really nice people.”
Which is why tonight’s home opener for the Red Claws is arguably the most anticipated one since the franchise's inception in 2009. (Tonight's game can be seen live on NBC Sports Boston at 7:00 p.m. and it can be streamed online or via the MyTeams app.)
There was an undeniable spike in interest — and ticket sales — shortly after the Celtics signed Tacko to one of their two-way contracts.
That means Tacko will spend most of this season with the Red Claws along with fellow two-way contract signee Tremont Waters.
But even before Tacko signed his two-way deal, Red Claws fans began inquiring about him dating back to this summer when he was a member of Boston’s summer league roster.
At that time, he was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract, which essentially meant he would get a chance to compete for a roster spot in training camp with minimal assurances beyond that.
But with the Celtics summer league squad, Tacko showed promise at the NBA level even though he still looked more like a player who would need some seasoning in say, you know, the G-League.
“After his first appearance in summer league with the Celtics, we couldn’t go a day in the state of Maine without someone asking, “Is Tacko going to be in Maine?” Dajuan Eubanks, President of the Red Claws, said during a press conference last month announcing that the Celtics had taken over ownership of the team.
Much of the interest surrounding the 7-foot-7 center is based on his eye-catching height.
But what’s often lost in Tacko-mania is the fact that the 23-year-old big man is working towards fulfilling his dream of being a regular mainstay in the NBA.
He has already had a taste of what it’s like to play in an NBA game.
During a blowout win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden last month, Tacko saw his first regular-season action amid a chorus of Knicks fans cheering for him to enter the game. Yes, Knicks fans cheering for a Celtic. In New York.
And to Tacko’s credit, he made the most of his four minutes of action by scoring four points to go with three rebounds in Boston’s 118-95 victory.
“It’s just a blessing to be out there,” Tacko told NBC Sports Boston shortly after the win over the Knicks. “Not everyone gets the opportunity I have right now. Like I said, it’s definitely a blessing and I don’t take it for granted.”
And a similar approach is being taken with his time with the Red Claws.
While the fanfare and adulation is nice, Tacko — as well as those associated with the Red Claws — are all on the same page as far as what his time in Maine is truly about.
“He’s accommodating and he’s a very fine individual,” Eubanks said in a phone interview with NBC Sports Boston. “But he’s also there to do a job and get better and hopefully make a good name for himself in the NBA.”
And it is that latter point raised by Eubanks that far too often gets lost in the discussion as it relates to Tacko.
“We all know that because he’s so tall that for most people, that’s what they are going to talk about,” said Celtics forward Grant Williams, who is one of Tacko’s closest friends on the Celtics roster. “But he’s a basketball player and he’s getting better and better.”
And that growth will be on display tonight for the first time in front of the Red Claw faithful at the Portland Exposition Building.
The Red Claws (1-0) opened the season with a 148-125 road win over Delaware, a game in which Tacko came off the bench and finished with a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds to go with three blocked shots, a steal and an assist.
Tacko said he has heard a lot of good things about the Red Claws crowds, and is eager to give them something to cheer about as he continues along his basketball odyssey that began in Senegal as a youngster, and now has him in Portland, Maine where the says he people have been great to him.
But the weather?
“It’s cold,” Tacko said. “I’m not used to that. Luckily I have a big jacket so I try to stay warm. But I’m gonna get used to it. It’s not going to be as bad as I thought it was gonna be.”
Because ultimately Tacko knows it’s not about the weather, fans sitting in his lap for pictures or having different body parts signed.
It’s about basketball and how far can he take his game.
“I just have to keep working, use my time in Maine to keep getting better,” he said.
Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of the Maine Red Claws vs. the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, which tips off Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET , followed by Celtics Pregame Live before the C's face the Warriors. You can also stream both games through the MyTeams App.