Even to this day I struggle to think of Giannis Antetokounmpo doing otherworldly things on the basketball court, and not think about Kelly Olynyk.
When the Celtics traded up in the 2013 NBA Draft, I was convinced that this ridiculously athletic physical freak was Boston-bound because the Celtics, who had the 16th overall pick that year, knew he wasn’t going to get past then-Milwaukee Bucks GM John Hammond, who was sitting on pick No. 15.
Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis
So. when the Celtics swung a deal with the Dallas Mavericks for the No. 13 pick, I was convinced the man that they were eager to get was Antetokounmpo.
I was wrong.
And the Celtics were among the dozen or so NBA teams that totally whiffed on the future league MVP.
But I’ll say this for Olynyk.
While he certainly had his share of ups and downs in Boston, the 7-footer had one of the greatest moments in recent years by delivering the game of his life - in one of his final games as a Celtic - in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference semifinals against Washington.
Olynyk didn’t just play well.
He was on a level that we had never seen before, finishing with 26 points (He was averaging 7.8 points in the previous six games of the series) in helping lift Boston to the win and a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It was a franchise-altering performance on two fronts.
The win took Boston deeper into the postseason than any Brad Stevens-coached team had ventured up to that point while sending the Wizards home for the season along with being the first domino to fall for a franchise that hasn’t come anywhere close to being as good as they were that season.
Prior to Game 7, Olynyk’s most memorable moment in the series involved a hard screen he set in Game 3 of the series on Kelly Oubre Jr., who quickly rose to his feet and charged towards Olynyk, sparking a shoving match between both teams.
But in Game 7, it was Olynyk delivering one basketball body shot after another.
Knowing he was coming up on restricted free agency, Olynyk gave the Celtics as good a parting gift as you can imagine.
And after he signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Miami Heat, Olynyk took to Twitter to let the Celtics faithful know how much he enjoyed his time donning the Green and White.
🙏🏼 Thank You Boston 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/62T603C1b1— Kelly Olynyk (@KellyOlynyk) July 7, 2017
While with the Heat, Olynyk’s play hasn’t been nearly as good as it was on that memorable Game 7 against Washington.
However, you wouldn’t have known that by the career-high 32 points he dropped on the Celtics upon his return to the TD Garden that year.
Still, Celtics fans are always going to have a soft spot for Olynyk because his play in Game 7 served as a reminder of how anything is possible when it comes to a star emerging for one night when needed.
And while Olynyk has never played anywhere close to that level of play on a consistent basis since that Game 7, that’s OK.
Because for one night, May 15, 2017, the Celtics got the absolute best that Olynyk had to offer.
And that was good enough to help elevate a strong Celtics franchise into what has been a model of consistency since then while leaving another still searching for an identity.