From winning her first national championship at ten years old to being named team captain with the NBA’s most storied franchise, competitive cheer has been a major theme for most of Jocelyn’s Saber’s life. It’s only natural she was selected to represent herself, the Celtics, and the city of Boston on one of the sport’s biggest stages: NBA All-Star Weekend.
When you go to any Boston Celtics game at TD Garden, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and company are not the only athletes putting on a show for the 19,156 (sometimes rabid) fans in attendance.
Jocelyn Saber, a Green Team athlete since 2017 and this year’s captain, was recently selected alongside Tatum to represent the Celtics at the 2022 NBA All-Star game in Cleveland.
I had the honor to sit down with Jocelyn for this issue to learn more about her tenure with the Celtics, her journey in cheerleading, competing as a Division I athlete, and how she balances her commitments with the Celtics with her responsibilities as an executive in the Global Sports and Entertainment division at Morgan Stanley.
AC: Jocelyn Saber, NBA All Star. What comes to mind when you hear that and see it in print?
JS: It’s so surreal! I still can’t believe it. Especially during a year like this, with Covid and everything going on, I never thought I’d be packing my bags for Cleveland. I feel super blessed to not only work the All-Star Weekend, but to be chosen to represent an organization like the Celtics is such a great honor.
AC: You’ve been involved with cheering almost all of your life. In fact, your family has somewhat of a shrine of your “through the years” pics in the sport at your home in Connecticut. What has your journey been like getting to where you are today with the Celtics?
JS: Growing up my mom was always that mom who had her camera out every minute and took a million pictures. And she would also buy every single picture the photographers took of me. She decided to frame them all and hang them in our basement. I thought it was embarrassing when I was younger, but now I really appreciate it and it’s fun to look back at all the memories.
I started cheering when I was 8 years old for a Pop Warner cheerleading team, the Aspetuck Wildcats. When I was 10, I won my first national championship in Tucson, Arizona. When I returned home from AZ, I was invited to join a Level 5 All Star team in CT where I cheered with high school athletes, and some college girls as well. I thoroughly enjoyed being thrown in the air by the older/bigger girls. I juggled the Pop Warner cheer team while preparing for national competitions with my first All-Star team!
When I got to high school, I stopped All-Star cheer for a short time as I was dealing with some minor injuries, so I only cheered for my high school team which had fewer competitions and was a lot less intense. I was passionate about competing, and I definitely missed All-Star. During my sophomore year in high school, somebody posted a Facebook video of me throwing a tumbling pass. One of the coaches at a World’s gym in Waterford CT, East Celebrity Elite, contacted me and invited me to try out for their International Open Level 5 worlds team called Fame. This was a very prestigious team, and I didn’t have to think twice about joining. So I traveled to this gym a few days a week for practice. It was roughly an hour and a half each way, so I bet you can guess where most of my homework was done. I competed at Worlds a few times with Fame and really learned what it was like to be on a big stage with lots of responsibilities. To this day, those competitions and gym moments are some of the best memories of my life.
From there I was recruited to Quinnipiac University to be a member of their Acrobatics and Tumbling team, an emerging women’s NCAA Division I sport. I was recruited on an athletic scholarship, and was fortunate to be a four year starter on the team. Acrobatics and Tumbling follows the USA Gymnastics scoresheet, and contains aspects of competitive All Star Cheerleading. We executed acrobatic lifts, tosses, and tumbling. Acro was awesome, I enjoyed every minute in the life of a D1 student athlete, as well as the perks of it, but I definitely missed cheerleading.
After my 4 years of NCAA eligibility were up, I stayed at Quinnipiac to complete my Masters in Business Administration. This is when the coach of the Celtics Green Team reached out and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for the Green Team. And the rest is history! I started with the Celtics in 2017; it was such an honor to be named captain this season.
AC: My family has been involved with the New England Patriots and cheering my entire life. I know firsthand the preparation and commitment that goes into cheering for a professional sports team, especially here in Boston.
You also have a very impressive professional career working in Global Sports and Entertainment with Morgan Stanley, in addition to the Celtics. Tell us a little about that and how you are able to be successful and balance your responsibilities in both fields.
JS: I am super passionate about sports, and I knew I wanted to work in the sports world in some capacity. When I interviewed at Morgan Stanley and learned about their Global Sports and Entertainment (GSE) sector, I knew it would be a great fit for me. GSE is a division of Morgan Stanley that focuses on the complex financial needs of professional athletes and entertainers. I had always dreamed about working at a firm as prestigious as Morgan Stanley, and the sports division was an added bonus. I work with the only GSE team in the region. Our team is called The Heights Group and we specialize in Wealth Management for professional athletes and coaches. My position focuses on managing client services and team operations. I serve as an advocate for our clients by coordinating all phases of financial services, ensuring team optimization and client satisfaction. We have the best clients in the world!
My schedule was a lot to get used to at first, I’d leave my apartment at 7 am for the office, work the full day, head straight to The Garden (TD Garden) or the Auerbach Center (at New Balance World HQ) for practice, and not return home until almost midnight after a game. This calls for some long days, and the NBA season is a long season, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. Your body gets used to it. Both worlds are very supportive of one another.
AC: This issue features Cedric Maxwell on the cover as part of our tribute to Celtics75, a photoshoot we both got to be a part of! Cedric is a legend with the team and one of the last remaining from the glory years. What was it like being part of that shoot, getting to know him a little, and what it means to be featured alongside him in this issue?
JS: Mr. Maxwell is a legend! My dad has always been such a huge fan of his. He grew up watching him play. I was so honored to be a part of the shoot and have the opportunity to shake his hand and hear some of his stories. Shortly after we met at the shoot we ran into each other at The Garden. He put his (massive) hand up for a high five and said “Hey girl!” That moment was pretty cool haha and something I’ll never forget. He’s such a genuine down to earth guy, I can’t believe that my name and his are even being thrown around in the same sentence, let alone being featured alongside of him.
AC: What’s a typical “Game Day” like for you?
JS: I put in a work day at my office job and head straight to The Garden afterwards for games during the week. Game days are much less stressful on the weekends. I try to have a healthy and fueling lunch on a game day. I always make sure to leave plenty of time for my hair & on court makeup, which has to be on point every game of course! I’ll head to the Garden 2 hours before tip-off to start getting our props ready, look at our script for the night, and meet with the team. Once I get to The Garden it’s usually non-stop until the end of game. Once the game starts, I put a smile on my face and enjoy executing our stunts, routines, and tumbling, and also have fun with promotions. Every single game really is exciting and so much fun! If I have friends or family attending the game, I always try to find time to visit them in their seats. After the game, my adrenaline is still running high; when I get home I’ll have a small dinner & unwind with my sweet cat, Eloise.
AC: What have been some of your coolest memories and experiences cheering with the Celtics?
JS: So many great memories, but one that comes to mind is a game against the Houston Rockets my rookie year. We were losing the entire game, and came back to win in the final minutes. The atmosphere in The Garden that night was so electric, and it’s definitely a game I’ll never forget. There were some buzzer beater games as well that were unreal. These crazy games are special for so many reasons. First of all, the fans are incredible. The energy in in the arena is unmatched. And we get to use props that we save for high intense situations only. My favorite one being “The Banner.” It’s this huge banner that covers a good part of the court, and it has multiple layers. Lucky, our iconic mascot, hides under the banner, and pulls each layer through. As each layer disappears, the crowd gets louder and louder. It’s one of my favorite game day moments.
The Paul Pierce retirement ceremony was also one of my favorite moments. To have had the opportunity to watch his number “34” raised into the rafters (the first Celtics number retired since Cedric Maxwell’s “31”) and be a part of Celtics history was so special. That is a day I’ll never forget.
AC: Any predictions for the rest of the season? Any chance we could be seeing another championship banner raised to the rafters?
JS: I’m really looking forward to finishing the season strong. It hasn’t been a normal year by any means for anyone, but I’m so ready to make the most of the remaining games. We’ve been playing so well, and I’m ready to make a run. I’m sure Banner 18 is in our near future and can’t wait to be a part of it!! Let’s go C’s!!!