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Remembering Tommy Heinsohn

November 14, 2020

Another truly great sports figure, Tommy Heinsohn died suddenly last week at the age of 86 (of the ’86 Celtics, but one title since, Lakers also with 17 but read on).

Heinsohn played 9 seasons, all with the (Boston) Celts and the team won 8 NBA titles.

He and Bill Russell were rookies on the first title team in 1957, the great winner Russell and Tommy a.k.a. “Tommy Gun” (he liked to shoot), putting Boston over the top.

In an incredible game 7 vs a very good St. Louis Hawks team led by Bob Pettit and coached by Alex Hanumm, it was Heinsohn who scored 37 points in the Celts overtime victory.

LeBron James, now with half the 8 titles Heinsohn has tied that still record number of points in a game 7 of the NBA final for a player on the winning team. The great Jerry West had 42 in defeat vs the Celtics in 1969.

I interviewed Mr. Heinsohn at a B’nai B’rith sports dinner in 1988 and he talked about an incredible play, in which, Hanumm, a player coach, threw the ball the length of the court and off the backboard, I believe setting up a shot to win the game.

It would be great to have video or audio of that and other classic games.

In one that does exist, with Bob Wolff, a man who put my “student call” of a Tom Veryzer started 6-3 play, of a game at Yankee Stadium in 1977, into the Smithsonian Institute, along with his great interviews, Heinsohn came up big, down the stretch, as the Celtics clinched the 1963 title at L.A. in game 6. He grabbed a huge offensive rebound and converted 2 free throws to put the Celts up 3, in a time when there was no 3 point shot. He added 2 more free throws, accounting for the last 4 Boston points in a (112-109) win.

It was Bob Cousy’s last game and he threw the ball straight up in the air as the game ended.

Up there, Tommy, who also guided the Celtics to titles number 12 and 13 as coach in 1974 and 1976 and was still a very biased Johnny Most type Celts broadcaster, be careful with the angels/referees, as instead of issuing technical fouls, they might take your cigarettes.

The great Bill Russell on the left with Tommy Heinsohn.

One day, I hope it will not be necessary, to say he or she is black, white, green (think Celtics) or of a certain faith, however, the Celtics with a great team of both black and white players, with a coach (Red Auerbach) of the Jewish faith, back in “lesser when,” IS WORTH NOTING.

Even before a certain someone used something called “tweets,” to express his anger/ego/ evil coated views, I did not like the idea of “tweets,” certainly not the plethora thereof.

However, the brief heartfelt one below from Bill Russell about Tom Heinsohn, is worth putting out there.  


We were rookies together and friends for life. In life there are a limited number of true friends, today I lost one. RIP Heiny.

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