Karl Volker's shop in Downtown Crossing sells T-shirts, mugs and other souvenirs emblazoned with some of Boston's best-known brands: Harvard University, the Patriots, the Red Sox and the Bruins.
But these days, the hottest items come in green and white — the colors of the Boston Celtics. "The biggest is the Boston shirt with the shamrock on it," Volker said.
The Celtics are headed into the playoffs Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets as one of the hottest teams in basketball. They finished the season in second place in the Eastern Conference. And some analysts and fans believe they could win their first championship since 2008.
The enthusiasm is hard to miss. Attendance at TD Garden, where the Celtics play, has exceeded levels before the pandemic. And everyone from local residents to foreign tourists are scooping up Celtics gear, Volker said, giving local merchants a big lift.
"I think it's psychology," Volker said. "If the team is winning, then the tide lifts all boats."
The Celtics are among the most storied franchises in pro sports. Seventeen banners hang from the Garden's rafters.
But since Larry Bird and the Big Three in the mid-'80s, the C's have yet to equal the kind of dominance of the Patriots or the Red Sox. They claimed just one NBA title in the past 35 years.
But after a sluggish start to this season, the team roared to the front of the pack with the league's best defense, led by guard Marcus Smart and stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
The second-half turnaround was so good — vaulting the team from 11th to second place — it ranked as the best of any team in NBA history.
"Beating teams on the road — and dominating from wire to wire — which is what they've done almost 20 times this season," said Boston journalist Dart Adams as he stood outside TD Garden. "These are things that teams that win championships do."
But for Boston to fully embrace the Celtics, some say they’ll need to vanquish the rival Brooklyn Nets this weekend.
Nets fans chanted "we want Boston" after the team beat Cleveland earlier this week, securing their first-round playoff match with Boston.
"Well be careful what you wish for,” a TNT announcer responded.
Boston is considered a four-point favorite in early betting, meaning they'll have to win by more than four points for betters to cash in.
And some think the two teams could be in the early stages of building a new basketball rivalry.
That's because the Nets feature former Celtics star Kyrie Irving, who has become an arch-nemesis for Boston ever since moving to Brooklyn as a free agent in 2019.
Adams, the sports analyst, recalls Irving insulting local fans by stomping on the Celtics' leprechaun logo after the Nets beat Boston in a playoff game last year. Irving and the Nets went on to end the C's season that year.
"Because after Kyrie Irving stepped on the logo, a lot of people who don't live in his region don't understand the significance of that," Adams said. "I think it's important for the fandom to see the Celtics humiliate — possibly eradicate — the Brooklyn Nets."
Now many Boston residents, like Sebastian Atryzek, think it's time for the Celtics to bring home another title. Atryzek is already counting on the players to match slugger David Ortiz's triumphs for the Red Sox against the hated New York Yankees.
"We're down by three. Grand Slam!" Atryzek said. "I'm just giving that as an example of what we're about to do."
Another Celtics die-hard is South Boston native Mike Greenwood. Sitting on a bench in Boston Common in a green-and-white Celtics hat, Greenwood said he isn't sure these Celtics can overcome the best in the NBA yet.
But he has hope.
"Boston fans are tired of not winning basketball," he said. "We really are. I can't see how they're going to not bring us to the championships."
Greenwood said he quit drinking, so he doesn’t watch the basketball games at the bars like he once did.
But at his daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, he said, everybody is talking about the Celtics.
This segment aired on April 15, 2022.