It was the sixth-period math in Mr. Lawson’s classroom when Jack Bienvenue said he had a premonition. He remembers it was exactly 2:15 pm on March 21 when his life completely changed.
Bienvenue, an 18-year-old who graduated from Cape Cod Technical High School last weekend, had seen his beloved Boston Celtics climb from the basement of the Easten Conference all the way to fourth place. So when his friends were arguing over who was going to win the title, he didn’t understand what there was to debate.
“I said, ‘I’m so confident the Celtics will win it, I’ll get a tattoo of the (2022 banner),” Bienvenue told The Athletic. “My friend said, ‘No you wouldn’t’. So I was like, ‘Screw you guys, I’m getting it done.’ “
The day before, he had been planning to get a tattoo of Boston’s 617 area code. But after watching Boston go into Denver and lock down MVP Nikola Jokić that night, he had seen enough. Buzz around the league that the Celtics could make a title run was slowly starting to build, but it still seemed premature.
Bienvenue didn’t care.
He knew his friends and family would think he wasn’t in his right mind, but it was actually his mother’s idea for him to get tatted in the first place. Nancy Siemer had always wanted to get one in the memory of her father and a close friend, so she thought she and Jack should do it together now that he had turned 18 and was heading off to college.
“I kept dragging my ass, saying I’ll get to it eventually and he got tired of waiting for me,” Siemer, a teacher in the Nauset Regional School District said. “So he was like, ‘Mom, I’m going to get my tattoo today,’ and I’m like, ‘Cool, what are you going to get?’ He’s like, ‘Well, you’ll see.’ ”
He had to surprise his parents – Siemer and his father Richard, an administrator for Eastham, Mass.
Now, with the series tied and the Celtics headed back to Boston for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, it’s hard to remember when this playoff run still seemed like a fantasy. But back in March, it was too wild an idea to risk his parents intervening. Bienvenue knew when he told his friend Charlie Perkins he was getting the tattoo, Perkins wouldn’t be able to talk him out of it.
“My boy Jack, he’s got some balls on him,” Perkins said.
“He goes, ‘I’m going to get this tattoo that says Celtics 2022 World Champions,” he said recalling the math class conversation. “I said something like, ‘Dude, the playoffs haven’t even started yet. You’re crazy. ‘”
As soon as he got out of school, Bienvenue called tattoo artist Taylor Lindley at his new Hyannis parlor Hotline Tattoo and told him he would be there in 30 minutes.
“It took a little convincing on my part to put it on my shoulder, but he eventually caved,” Bienvenue said.
“I’ve been tattooing for almost 20 years, so I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff come through, but this one really stood out,” Lindley said. “He was one of the first clients at my new shop and he comes in with this funny idea and he seemed pretty confident about getting it done. He seemed like a fun kid and was real polite, so I said, ‘What the hell?’ ”
Lindley pulled up a photo of an actual Celtics championship banner, Bienvenue sat down, and 90 minutes later, it was etched in ink.
Lindley took a few photos and videos, bandaged it up, and sent him home to face the music with his parents.
“My parents knew I was getting a Celtics tattoo, but they really did not expect me to come home with a banner tattoo, so that was quite the experience,” Bienvenue said.
Much to his surprise, Siemer didn’t think it was that bad. She loved that her son was ambitious and bold.
“I definitely thought it was ballsy, but it was ballsy cool,” Siemer said. “I wasn’t pissed or anything, I thought it was super cool, but they haven’t won yet.”
He posted a photo and video on Instagram of the tattoo and it stirred a frenzy at school. As his friends anxiously awaited the big reveal, he was at home sick for a few days and the anticipation reached a fever pitch.
“They were all so excited to see that tattoo,” Perkins said of his friends. “He got it at the start of senior spring and when he got that tattoo, I just stopped caring about school and started having a good time.
“That’s the biggest commitment I’ve ever seen out of somebody.”
Bienvenue traced his belief in the team back to when he was at the Celtics game in New York – the MSG meltdown – as Knicks wing RJ Barrett hit a buzzer-beater on Jan. 6, a game the Celtics have often cited as their rock bottom.
“That was the lowest point of the season for me and all Celtics fans, so I think it was ironic I was at that game,” Bienvenue said. “Looking back at how the season turned out, it’s a good memory to have because now we’re at our highest.”
Bienvenue said he can still hear Knicks fans booing him as he walked out of the game in his shamrock blazer and curly green wig. So, when he saw how far the team had come by mid-March, he appreciated the substantial turnaround.
He was just five for the last championship in 2008, and only a few of his friends are unlucky enough to recall the pain of losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010. He saw something in this team which made him feel that if they could overcome the meltdown in New York, they could take on anything.
“It means so much being around for the first finals run I’ve seen, because my first year really being into Celtics basketball was (Jayson) Tatum’s rookie year when we got to the conference finals,” Bienvenue said. “Game 7, I thought we had it won, Tatum dunked on LeBron, then LeBron just did LeBron things. When we lost, I remember being totally heartbroken that night. Being able to finally get over that hump and just get there this year meant so much. But the job is not finished yet. ”
Siemer was with her son for the game in New York and began to understand why he was so passionate. When she saw the tattoo a few months later, she was all-in. Bienvenue said his mom is almost the bigger Celtics fan at this point. She spends games on the edge of her seat, holding up prayer hands every time a shot goes in the air.
“I’m more into basketball now than I’ve ever been,” Siemer said. “I think his tattoo got me into basketball. His tattoo has brought him to another level, and I just love watching him be so excited about it and having fun. ”
She went with Bienvenue to her first game in years a few days after the tattoo, watching Boston down the Minnesota Timberwolves for their 11th win in 12 games. At that point, the Celtics had cemented themselves as contenders and Siemer could see why her son was willing to take the leap.
But what made it so special was to see him live carefree, even with his big bet still healing on his upper arm.
“What I’m really pleased to see is Jack being confident and Jack being comfortable with himself,” Siemer said. “I’m a dancer and I love to dance, and I always dance like no one’s watching. So, I love how he has carried himself through Boston Celtics games like no one’s watching. He just is himself and that’s what makes me really proud. ”
Bienvenue’s friends and family gather to watch games with him now, tapping the tattoo for good luck. Perkins has been by his side the whole time, equally enthralled with Boston’s postseason run. He’s now following the team for the first time since Ray Allen was in green.
“Whenever you’re watching a Celtics game with Jack, it doesn’t matter if they’re winning or losing, you’re gonna have a good time,” Perkins said. “Jack really got me into basketball. I wasn’t too big (into it) and was a Bruins fan, but he brought me to a game after (he got the tattoo) and I just really started liking the guys on the team.
“(Payton) Pritchard’s next Larry Bird, I gotta tell you that. Golden State better look out if Pritchard’s on the court. Tatum’s definitely the best player on that team. Give Pritchard a few years. He’s gonna be a star. Best player in the NBA. ”
While those around him have jumped on board for the ride, Bienvenue inevitably was clowned online after he was interviewed in the local news and the photo of his tattoo when viral. It was a shock at first, dealing with sudden publicity after a quiet childhood growing up in Cape Cod.
“Everyone’s rooting for me, but the general public, it took them a lot longer to come around because haters gonna hate,” Bienvenue said. “All my friends are very supportive of it, even those who don’t like basketball started watching the Celtics religiously just because of the tattoo.”
Even Lindley, who hardly watches sports, said he’s becoming a fan now. Bienvenue said he wanted to share his passion for the Celtics, and he cherishes how this has built a community around him, just as he is preparing to step out of the community he’s known his whole life and head to Lassell University, where he’ll study sports management. He was even the star of his principal’s commencement speech at graduation last weekend.
“This class – like the Celtics – they are resilient,” principal William Terranova said during his address.
Bienvenue uses the word destiny often in our conversation – and it’s about more than getting this tattoo so early and it potentially coming to fruition. It’s that as the season, and life, goes on, he continues to see the stars align.
“A couple months ago, I planned a graduation trip for myself to go to the west coast,” Bienvenue said. “I (graduated) Saturday and I’m leaving Monday for the Bay Area, just conveniently there (for Game 5) during the finals, which is insane. It just happened to line up, so that’s part of the reason why I think this is destiny. ”
He’ll be traveling through California for the remainder of the finals, hoping to celebrate a Celtics championship in enemy territory. Whether or not it works out for him, it’s the journey with friends and strangers rooting him on that has made it all so special.
“I wouldn’t want him to cover it,” Siemer said. “Some people say, ‘Will he cover it?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t think so.’ I wouldn’t because it would just be a great memory. He’s met some nice people, we were caught dancing on the jumbotron and that was pretty cool to me. ”
His parents were on board from the get-go and just like her son, Siemer sees it as more than a mark in time, as evidence of a single decision. It’s a symbol of their journey as mother and son, a reflection of him stepping into adulthood and venturing out into the world.
“The lesson to me is to let go and to trust his judgment and just to have fun with him. It means a lot because turning him 18 and going away to school, that’s hard enough to let go, ”Siemer said. “So to experience this ride with him before he goes has been the ultimate (gift) to be a part of all of it with him.”
Even though Bienvenue is proud of his decision, he said it’s nerve-racking every time the team is down. When Jimmy Butler pulled up for 3 at the end of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, he said he was pouring in sweat, but it still added another layer of excitement.
“He came up to me the other day and was like, ‘If I go to the beach and they lose, everybody’s gonna be staring at me like I’m an idiot,’ ‘Perkins said. “But if the Celtics win, he’s going to be a legend.”
Asked what he would do if the Celtics lose, he said he hadn’t really thought about it. As much as getting the tattoo hurt, the aggravation of removing it would be even worse – but not because of the physical pain.
“Probably the emotional (pain), dude. Fuck, I don’t think I’d get it lasered off, because it’s part of me, ”Bienvenue said. “If they end up losing and then they win like next year, after they win I could get it corrected. Get the two lasered off and get a three.
“But if it works, I’m a prophet.”
(Top photo of Jack Bienvenue: Brian Babineau / Boston Celtics)