With 17 championships and enough retired numbers that they'll have to resort to triple-digits or jersey letters someday, the Boston Celtics have employed many men who have resumes worthy of being crowned "Mr. Celtic", but none were more deserving of that title than Tommy Heinsohn.
Only one person has been affiliated with the Boston Celtics for all 17 of their NBA Championships (and four empty trips to the Finals) and you guessed it; that person was Tommy Heinsohn, who passed away today at the age of 86.
Between Alex Trebek on Sunday and Tommy today, this is the second staple of my upbringing via television to pass away this week and it's not even hump day; hopefully Zach Braff is somewhere safe.
Even though both were in their 80's and not exactly in Jack LaLanne shape, their passings have shook me. Both men brought me great joy and had been there on TV for literally my entire life. Trebek had hosted Jeopardy since 1984 and Tommy had been the bleed green color-man of the Boston Celtics since 1981. Of course, Alex was more of a national celebrity, I don't think there's any SNL skits about Tommy Points, but Tommy Heinsohn wasn't exactly some unknown indie band when it came to name recognition; he's one of only four people to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach (John Wooden, Lenny Wilkins and Heinsohn's former teammate Bill Sharman are the others) AND was a spokesman for Miller Lite during the 70's and 80's during the peak of the most aesthetically pleasing domestic beer can of all time. Not a bad run for #15.
As the 28 year old currently typing this blog, I knew Tommy as the voice of the Boston Celtics and he made no secrets about who he was rooting for. You're gonna see this in a lot of articles today but it's true "he was a homer, but he was OUR homer". Words cannot describe how entertaining he was during broadcasts, only clips can (saved for the end of the blog). I've listened to him and Mike Gorman call hundreds of games and they were the perfect match. Mike was the straight man who kept things in order and Tommy was the larger than life figure who could convince you that the 11th man on the bench could be an All-NBA performer if given the chance and never saw a foul call that he liked.
Tommy's passion and insight made him a fan favorite. He's the reason why countless New England kids have yelled "THAT'S A TOMMY POINT!" during a great hustle play in a pick-up game.
In an industry where players and coaches change like the (four) seasons, Mike and Tommy were the one consistency of Celtics broadcasts. The TV channel name changed more than the broadcast team during the peak of their tenure together before Tommy's role was reduced in 2012-13. During the lean years of the 90's and mid 2000's they were the reason most people were turning into Celtics games.
Before his days as a broadcaster, as previously mentioned, Tommy had not one, but two Hall of Fame careers.
The All-American out of Holy Cross was drafted in 1956 by the Boston Celtics thanks to territorial rights. The 6x All Star won Rookie of the Year in 1957 while helping lead the Celtics to their first NBA Championship. Tommy averaged 18.8 PPG and 8.8 RPG over nine seasons with the Celtics where he only won eight NBA Titles. Tommy Heinsohn is the only player in NBA history to have a rookie year that included an all star appearance, championship and ROY.
Injuries forced Tommy to retire following the 1964-65 season after his seventh straight championship. Once he hung up the converse, Tommy called Celtics games on the radio for three years before becoming the Celtics Head Coach in 1969-70. During Tommy's HOF coaching career he won two more NBA titles (1974 & 1976) so no finger would be left ringless. He was Coach of the Year in 1973 when the Celtics went 68-14 before being upset in the Conference Finals by the eventual NBA champion New York Knicks (something has not happened since). By the time his coaching career ended Heinsohn was second behind only Red Auerbach in wins and remains in that same spot today.
Away from the court Tommy loved to paint, Michael Holley has called him a Renaissance Man.
During his 86 years on this planet, Tommy Heinsohn spent well over 60 associated with the Boston Celtics. This man truly bleed green and while it's a sad day that he's gone, there is no denying that this man lived a full life. Mourn for his family, but we should be celebrating a life lived right. The Celtics broadcast will never be the same again. R.I.P. Mr. Celtic. You will be missed by millions.