Celtics insider on the NBA Finals, MVP and why the team is so unpredictable

headshot of Chris Forsberg
Chris Forsberg is a 2003 Northeastern graduate who serves today as a multimedia Boston Celtics Insider for NBC Sports Boston. Courtesy photo

Chris Forsberg has been covering the Celtics since he was a student at Northeastern. 

“The Boston Globe sent me to a game to cover Jiri Welsch,” recalls Forsberg, who was on co-op when the Globe assigned him to write about the Celtic player. “I was like, ‘It’ll never get better than this.’”

That turned out to be a launching point. Forsberg serves today as a multimedia Boston Celtics Insider for NBC Sports Boston, which provides live broadcasts of Celtics regular season (and some playoff) games. He is around the team on a daily basis as it opened the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday with a loss to the underdog Miami Heat. (In the best-of-seven Western Conference finals, the Denver Nuggets hold a 1-0 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers.)

Chris Forsberg standing next to another person, both looking at something out of frame
Chris Forsberg and former Celtics general manager and executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge. Courtesy photo

After graduating from Northeastern in 2003 with a degree in journalism, Forsberg worked for three years at Boston.com, where his multimedia coverage of the Celtics 2007-08 championship season earned him an Emmy. He continued to cover the Celtics for nine seasons for ESPN before joining NBC Sports Boston.

He lives in his hometown of Auburn, Massachusetts, with his wife and their two daughters. Forsberg spoke with Northeastern Global News about his sports journalism career and Northeastern experience. His comments have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

How did your Northeastern experiences influence your career?

I remember filling out college applications and having no idea what I wanted to do. I picked communications. Northeastern made you narrow it down and so I was like, oh, journalism sounds pretty interesting, I like reading the paper. Somehow [his major] was classified as a TV broadcast focus of journalism. At the time I’m thinking, “Why am I learning this? I want to be a newspaper reporter.” Then 15 years later at ESPN I started having to do some of that stuff.

I am forever grateful. I didn’t know a whole lot about the co-op program and how valuable it would ultimately be. I had just the most amazing co-op adviser, Kellianne Murphy. I told her I wanted to go back home and work for the Auburn News, my local weekly paper, because I figured that’s what you’re supposed to do. But she wanted me to take an interview with the Boston Globe.

I walk in and I see [legendary Globe sportswriter] Will McDonough. I think Jackie MacMullan was there at that point along with Dan Shaughnessy, Bob Ryan. And I’m like, oh, man, I’m in the wrong spot.

If I didn’t have that experience of the Globe, none of this would have happened. That marriage between what Northeastern gave me in the classroom, but also getting that co-op experience that set me up better than any of my peers—in a way I got really lucky that I had some people looking out for me.

Who is your pick to win the NBA Finals next month?

I do feel irrationally confident in the Celtics. We know the Celtics will trip all over themselves at some point and [Miami star] Jimmy Butler and [coach Erik] Spoelstra will will that team to a couple of wins. But I’m leaning on the Celtics to win in six.

Out West, I think Denver has been slept-on all year. I know the Lakers are playing much better, they rebuilt their bench and all the optimism is based on the way LeBron [James] and Anthony Davis are playing. But [two-time NBA Most Valuable Player] Nikola Jokic is just so good. 

So I think it comes down to the Celtics and Denver in the Finals. On paper I like how the Celtics match up there, but it just comes down to whether Jokic can dominate for multiple games in that series and does [his Denver teammate] Jamal Murray do what he does.

If pressed I would have the Celtics winning it all. It sounds like a homer pick but I just know how talented this team is when it’s focused and locked in. While nothing has come easy for the Celtics, I feel pretty good about their chances.

Why are the Celtics so unpredictable?

I know a lot of people want to say it’s because of the rookie coach [Joe Mazzulla]. But it’s been like this for three coaches in a row. Brad Stevens couldn’t keep them in line at the end of his tenure. Ime [Udoka] had the roller-coaster last year as well. There’s just something about this core that they don’t always deal with adversity well.

We saw in Games 6 and 7 against the Sixers that all of a sudden they tightened things up—and they are great in those moments. It’s just sometimes when they have a safety net, they choose to use it; I think when you look at championship teams, usually that’s not the case. 

Look, they’ve been in a lot of big games and they understand the moment, so credit to them for being able to put it together when they have to. I think every Celtic fan would prefer that they not have these crazy brain farts at the end of games. But at the end of the day they usually figure it out. My only fear is that they run out of gas like they did last year against the Warriors [when the Celtics lost the NBA Finals in six games]. I hope they learned a lesson from that.

Who did you vote for NBA MVP?

I’m not fortunate enough to be a voter. But if I had voted, I probably would have gone for [Joel] Embiid ahead of Jokic. Embiid had that big game against Boston at the end of the year and that probably swung me a little more than it should have. 

Jokic doesn’t always have those loud nights, but he’s just so impactful. If I had been lucky enough to have a vote, it probably would have gone to Embiid, Jokic, Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. I probably would have put [Boston’s Jayson] Tatum down at fifth because he was a little quiet at the finish line. 

You’ve been a long-time believer of Celtics center Robert Williams as a defender, rebounder and playmaker. Is he aware of your support?

We’ve had lots of nice little chats but I don’t know if he knows the whole fandom thing. I think he knows I’m a supporter—and I know it sounds crazy that someone couldn’t know it if you’ve ever watched five minutes of our coverage. 

But I also don’t think Rob’s going home and wanting to watch what we think. He’s probably at home with his kids and blissfully ignoring us. I love that he does what he does and he doesn’t get caught up in it. If you put a bunch of guys in a line and said, “Pick out Forsberg,” I’m not sure he could do it.

Your career has transitioned from being an “objective” reporter to someone who now expresses his support of the Celtics. How do you strike the balance between objectivity and subjectivity?

I have this conversation all the time, especially with the “old guard” writers. And I’m conflicted in those moments because the way I was brought up was that you didn’t have an allegiance.

I grew up a Celtics fan. I try to separate the two in moments, but it’s hard. And now my kids are Celtics fans, they’re rooting for the team.

I’m fortunate enough to be in a spot where I don’t feel I need to be quite as objective. I’ll let the occasional “we” fly even though I’m not even remotely a part of this team; I’m just around them a lot. So I can lose my mind after a bad boss—and I’ll tell you, that resonates with people more than anything. My bosses and I have had a lot of talks about authenticity and being who you are.

It’s just different now. I’m eager to see where it goes. We can’t live in a world where it’s every writer—we need somebody who’s down the middle. 

You’ve experienced hearing loss since birth. How has it influenced your career?

I was born three months premature and we think one of the side effects of that was some nerve damage in my right ear. So I was born with—I think they said—20% hearing in my right ear.

I did some tests 14 months ago and that had all but evaporated. I have very little hearing in my right ear, and the left, which was already a little bit compromised, has started to drop as well. And so they classify it as single-sided deafness. My speech tends to navigate towards my stronger side so that I can hear myself.

You never know how bad it is until someone sits you down. My wife was great about it. She said, ‘‘You’re losing more of your hearing, this is becoming more of an issue, it’s something you need to address.’’ I got hooked up with an audiologist for hearing aids and the process has really changed my life. It’s still not perfect. But I didn’t know how much I was missing. Now that I have hearing aids, I really have even more passion to try to get people to explore them.

What it does is it takes sounds on the right side and releases them to the left side. I still have a little trouble with spatial awareness: If someone will say my name behind me, I won’t be able to necessarily locate it. But that’s improving slightly too.

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at i.thomsen@northeastern.edu. Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.