The Prince and Princess of Wales were due to leave the Celtics’ game against the Heat at TD Garden on Wednesday at halftime. After a transatlantic flight and other appearances around Boston, while dealing with the remnants of a five-hour jet lag at the start of this three-day visit, it made sense.
But as the slam dunks piled up and the music played and the crowd rumbled, William and Kate were apparently having too much fun to call it a night. So they came back for the second half and saw Jayson Tatum score 49 points in the Celtics’ 134-121 win.
“They were going for 22 hours,” Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said, “and they didn’t want it to end.”
It was the first NBA game the prince and princess had attended since watching LeBron James and the Cavaliers take on the Nets in 2014, and some parts left them baffled. For example, Grousbeck said, they weren’t quite sure why both teams insisted on shooting from so far. Then he explained to them the 3-point line.
Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca said William was mesmerized by goaltender Marcus Smart’s green-tinted hair. After asking about it, he rubbed his own bald head and said he might try it himself.
“They were just very down to earth,” Pagliuca said, “very friendly.”
The visit to TD Garden was largely kept secret by Kensington Palace, with the official three-day itinerary released to some news agencies saying the appearance was “strictly embargoed until arrival”.
William and Kate headed to their seats positioned between the two team benches about half an hour before tipping, and there was little reaction in the half-full arena. The couple were surrounded by luminaries, including Mayor Michelle Wu, Attorney General and Governor-elect Maura Healey, as well as Grousbeck and Pagliuca.
When the arena lights were turned off before the national anthem, Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum approached and also shook hands with the prince and princess. Then the game started and Tatum launched a powerful one-handed dunk. Moments later, he was fouled as he hit a deep 3-pointer directly in front of the Prince and Princess.
“They were really amazed by what Jayson was doing there,” Pagliuca said.
William and Kate were introduced to the crowd during a timeout early in the second quarter. They received a generally warm welcome, but a few boos were sprinkled in. When the pair were shown again on the arena’s video board a few minutes later, the reaction was similar, and it was followed by some “USA!” songs. Pagliuca said the couple had a good laugh at the mild heckling.
Due to the general secrecy of the appearance, fans were given no real advance warning. But South Boston resident Kathryn Lehman, 32, heard rumors of the royals’ potential arrival early Wednesday afternoon, so she and her friend Katie Grady, 34, spent about $205 each on lower level tickets.
Lehman said she was lucky enough to meet William 11 years ago while studying abroad in Brisbane, Australia. She passed a library where he was making an appearance and William came out to greet a dozen onlookers.
“And I just said, ‘Hi, my name is Kathryn and I’m American,'” Lehman recalled. “Really embarrassing.”
On Wednesday, she could just watch from afar.
“We’re in our early thirties, so we grew up with this vision of a fairy tale, and Kate was someone who was a commoner and grew up super normal and married into the royal family. “said Lehman. “I feel like we were at the age where we could witness this whole love story and really appreciate it.”
However, the Celtics were generally less impressed. Forward Jaylen Brown said it was just a normal game for him. Coach Joe Mazzulla said the only royals he knows are Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Guard Derrick White was briefly held up by the commotion leaving the field.
“I almost hit them,” he said. “I was like, ‘My bad.'”
Throughout the game, there were nods to the Earthshot Prize, the environmental prizes founded by William and the Royal Foundation in 2020 which will be awarded to innovators at a ceremony at MGM Music Hall on Friday.
Ollie Perrault, 15, from Easthampton, was honored on Wednesday to be the founder and director of Youth Climate Action Now, and William and Kate asked to meet her and spoke to her for several minutes.
Grousbeck and his wife, Emilia, left a personalized bottle of Cincoro tequila, the company they co-founded, in a private room reserved for the prince and princess in the bowels of the arena. The pair insisted on taking a sip at halftime, Grousbeck said. Then they watched the second half alongside Celtics legend Satch Sanders, whose No. 16 hung in the rafters above them.
“They couldn’t have been better guests,” Grousbeck said. “They were super nice people and they cared about everyone. They want to make sure everyone has a good time, and they really try to make the world a better place.