2020 keeps on hitting; Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn passed away yesterday at the age of 86. The ultimate Mr. Cetic, Heinsohn won eight rings with the Celtics as a player (’57, ’59-’65), two times as a coach (’74 and ’76), and hearts and minds as their play-by-play commentator alongside Mike Gorman. One of the rare play-by-play guys everyone liked to listen to, even if you weren’t a Celtic fan.
There hasn’t been a Celtic championship season in which Tommy Heinsohn wasn’t involved with the team in an official capacity. The most fascinating award he won was definitely the NBA Rookie of the Year award. It’s mostly because his main competitor was another rookie on his team, a certain Bill Russell. A 6-time All-Star, 4-times All-NBA second team, he also won Coach of the Year, and the list goes on and on. Heinsohn is the reason no-one can wear 15 in a Celtics jersey. But there is a story that describes the difference of the game in Heinsohn’s time.
One of the hallmarks of LeBron’s era is the evolution of nutrition and body maintenance. Millions spent to be in optimal condition for every game. The ’50s and the ’60s could be called the Heinsohn era in that regard when things were a bit different.
Tommy loved his cigarettes (as most of the players at that time). Back in those days, you would smoke in the doctor’s office; airplanes had little ashtrays in every seat, and cigarettes were even promoted for their health benefits! But coaches realized it might not be the best solution for your cardio. Red Auerbach convinced Heinsohn to stop smoking cause he was getting fatigued too fast.
Then they learned about one of the most common consequences of quitting smoking, and that is weight gain. Red decided smoking was the lesser evil and told Heinsohn to start smoking again!!!! All this didn’t go unnoticed with all the Celtics players who would move up the bench when he was in the game because they knew Red would often get annoyed with Henson’s lack of conditioning and just called up the first guy on the bench.
A member of the select few that have been inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and a coach, Tommy Heinsohn left an unforgettable mark on the game of basketball. He will be missed not only in Boston but in basketball arenas all around the NBA.