NBA and Boston Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn passed away at the age of 86 today. Heinsohn played nine seasons with the Celtics where he made six All-Star teams and won eight NBA championships. He also coached the team for nine seasons and won another two NBA championships.
After 18 seasons in a Hall of Fame career as a player/coach, Tommy Heinsohn had as many championship rings as he had fingers.
Heinsohn also served as the color commentator for the Celtics since 1981, and along with Mike Gorman, formed one of the longest-tenured pairs in the history of sports broadcasting. I never saw Heinsohn play or coach a game, but I have heard him call countless Celtics games.
I want to say I think journalistic integrity is overrated when it comes to showing bias towards teams (shout-out to my Journalism degree from Syracuse!). If an announcer is covering my team, I want to know they like the team, even if that’s unrealistic or maybe even silly. I am not saying they need to agree with every decision or always say the team is doing well when they’re not, but I want to feel like we’re in this together.
This is why Tommy Heinsohn will always be my favorite announcer.
Tommy was a homer’s homer, and I ate up every second of it. We always knew Tommy wanted the exact same outcome as the rest of us. We knew that we weren’t alone when we took every call that went against us personally. We didn’t feel crazy if we thought a young player reminded us of a superstar, because Tommy always took it 10 steps further. And if we had an irrational love for a role player that rivaled how other fanbases treated an MVP, that was okay because Tommy was right there with us.
Heinsohn had an almost grandfather-like role to Celtics fans who weren’t old enough for the glory days of the past (basically everything before 1990). Every game was like a family get together when you were just waiting for the “Back in my day…” to drop. But Tommy’s stories were never boring or irrelevant, his presence and experience just made watching the game better.
When the Celtics were a mediocre (at best) team for much of the late 90’s and early 00’s, tuning in for Tommy kept the games exciting. Seeing who Tommy would give his “Tommy Point” to was always a thrill, and “Tommy Point” is now immortalized in the Urban Dictionary.
Tommy Heinsohn was the rare NBA figure who was literally a legend on and off the court. I am going to really miss him during Celtics games and I want to thank him for all the times he was there with us hoping for another C’s win.
To all the other Celtics fans going through the same feelings today, at least we’ll always have this (start at the :33 mark):
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