HAVERHILL — Glen "Big Baby" Davis once again lived up to his reputation as a fan favorite.
The 6-9, 289-pound Boston Celtic forward lifted a 1-year-old to dunk and belted out "I'm a Believer" from the Shrek soundtrack.
Big Baby and former Celtic star Cedric Maxwell were in Haverhill to make the dream of the Cassidy family come true yesterday afternoon.
Nancy Cassidy entered and won the RE/MAX-Celtics Homecourt Makeover essay contest. The prize was a state-of-the-art half-court paved basketball court in her backyard, sporting a Celtics logo, a ball rack and a scoreboard, along with a visit from Davis to baptize the court.
"I am thrilled," said Nancy. "I have never won anything. A friend of mine from work recommended I give it a shot, and I waited until the last day before it was due and had to write an essay and submit pictures (of the backyard hoop). I thought to myself, 'Why not?'"
Basketball, and a love of the Celtics, have always been a key part of the bond between the single mother (her husband died seven years ago) and her 11-year-old son Shane.
"I have loved the Celtics since the glory days of Larry Bird," said Nancy, who played basketball at Greater Lawrence Tech in the late '80s. "It's been such a joy to share that love with him. His love has really grown for the team. I wrote a story about my life and my family, and got a call first I was a finalist, then a winner.
"We just love Big Baby. I wish I could be on the Celtics' bus with him and Shaquille O'Neal. Imagine the fun they're going to have."
Nancy, Shane and his sister Meagan, 13, were presented with authentic "10" Celtics home jerseys with their names on the back, to the cheers of friends and family who crowded the yard.
"I can't believe they won it," said Will Gilmore, 11, a close friend of Shane's. "I just thought, 'I can't believe I am meeting Big Baby. I never thought I'd be this close to someone like him. He's more than twice the size of me."
Davis was his charismatic self, signing everything from the logo at halfcourt to the backboard to a Shrek doll. Of course the Shrek theme was in honor of the famous interview with teammate Nate Robinson, who dubbed him Shrek after their wild celebration during the Celtics' Game 4 championship series win over the Lakers.
Davis made his way to Shane's room — which was also styled with Celtics memorabilia as part of the prize — where he signed a replica of the Celtics' 2008 NBA championship banner.
"It means a lot to do activities like this," said Davis. "A lot of athletes don't realize the effect they can have on the younger generation, and how we can help the lives of these kids. They see us on TV, but can't really tough us. To have a real part in their lives means a lot."
Davis followed the event by running a clinic at the Haverhill YMCA, along with Maxwell, which also proved to be an audience for his dance moves, and skills on a trampoline and rock-climbing wall, for the excited youths.
Looking fit, Davis is coming off a standout postseason in which he averaged 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds a game during the Celtics' run to the seventh game of the NBA finals.
Davis also noted the opportunities courts like the one he presented yesterday provide children, and that they were lacking during his youth in Baton Rouge, La.
"This court is beautiful," he said. "Having the tools to learn the game like this is so great for the kids. I love being around the kids, and I love the atmosphere they have here."
Big Baby's take
The ever talkative Glen "Big Baby" Davis took a few moments to reflect on the state of the NBA:
Teaming up with childhood hero Shaquille O'Neal:
"I grew up loving Shaq (who played at nearby LSU). He's been a role model for me, so it's amazing to be on the same team. I just love him. He's a great guy with a wonderful personality. We've had a lot of fun already."
The hype surrounding LeBron James' move to Miami:
"We're not worried about LeBron or the Heat. We're not afraid of them at all."
The loss to the Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals:
"It's out of our heads now. We're thinking about the future, and hopefully we'll get it done this season."
On being a spokesman for the Celtics:
"I love it. I love the atmosphere. It's so much fun to be around the fans."