The “We Want Tacos” chant is, oddly, not even all that uncommon at basketball games, given the wide variety of food promotions that exist for when home teams hit certain accomplishments. But at Madison Square Garden, a variation on this chant—the singular form—emerged from a Knicks blowout loss on Saturday night. With four minutes to go and the home team down 24, a crowd that definitely contained a lot of Celtics fans but certainly featured some Knicks stragglers, too, broke out into a demand for the 7-foot-5 undrafted Boston rookie, Tacko Fall.
Admittedly, the MSG crowd was not quiet about what they wanted all night. When the game was much closer, in the third quarter, New York fans were pleading for an appearance from Frank Ntilikina while Dennis Smith Jr. failed to effectively play point guard.
But there was an exuberance to the “We Want Tacko” chant that’s very rare for massive opening-night home defeats, and it wasn’t long before the remaining fans got what they so badly desired. Fall played the final 3:38 of the eventual 118-95 Celtics win, and in doing so brought previously unheard joy to the Garden. The crowd cheered Tacko like he was each and every fan’s son, and both times he dunked (his feet barely leaving the ground), the building sounded like the Knicks had just completed a comeback.
“I don’t know if anybody not drafted in the top two or three has ever felt the kind of stuff he feels when he touches the ball,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens afterwards, and I’m pretty sure he’s right. Plenty of good teams through the years have had fan-favorite human victory cigars than everyone loves to see in garbage time. (Darko Milicic on the championship-winning Pistons always comes to mind for me.) But for an undrafted player on the road in his first career game, the whole scene is incredibly surreal. I don’t envy that level of semi-ironic pressure and attention for a 12th man who’s just trying to adjust to the pros, but as long as Tacko brings opposing fans together, I think it’s a beautiful thing.