The 1950s and 60s were different times in the NBA. Players didn’t use their off-hand, the three-point line didn’t exist, and big men dominated the game, both on and off the court.
Superstars like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Oscar Robertson took center stage. Another notable player during that era was Tommy Heinsohn.
The 6’7″ forward was an iconic player and part of Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics. Tommy was a great player but had a bad habit of smoking. His coach, Red tried to get him to stop but went back on it after Heinsohn started to gain weight.
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Legendary Celtics coach, Red Auerbach once ordered Tommy Heinsohn to start smoking again
Back in the 1950s and 60s, smoking was a habit that many considered to be healthy. Everyone was smoking and they were smoking everywhere. In airplanes, at the hospital, name it and there were people smoking.
The same goes for athletes. Players loved to smoke, although research showed they became easily fatigued. One such player was Celtics legend, Tommy Heinsohn. In order to improve his stamina, Red Auerbach asked Tommy to stop smoking. But, he soon changed his decision, as quitting made Heinsohn gain weight.
Tommy Heinsohn in Faneuil Hall, Sept. 1964.
Pic by Neil Leifer. pic.twitter.com/dujUwkfNUU
— SI Vault (@si_vault) May 11, 2017
To be fair to Auerbach, it all worked out. Heinsohn represented Gang Green for nine seasons, winning eight NBA Championships.
He would continue his relationship with Boston as a coach, and much later as a play-by-play caller for the Celtics. He was so involved with the franchise, that he was given the beloved nickname “Mr. Celtic”.
A Celtics legend both on and off the court, Heinsohn passed away in November 2020
Tommy Heinsohn was nothing short of a superstar for the Boston Celtics. A Hall of Famer, Tommy holds the honor of being directly or indirectly involved in all of Boston’s championship wins. Either as a player, coach, or color commentator.
We take this time to celebrate Tommy Heinsohn’s life and legacy, and to share in the sorrow of his passing with his family, friends, and fans. As long as there are the Boston Celtics, Tommy’s spirit will remain alive.
Full Statement from the Celtics: https://t.co/T5tQbCpfs2 pic.twitter.com/WCcRe3C7aU
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 10, 2020
Unfortunately, “Mr. Celtic” passed away on November 9th, 2020. A tragedy to say the least, but his legacy will live on through the fans and faithful of Boston.
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