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Past and present Celtics, NBA react to the passing of Tommy Heinsohn

“He was the Celtics to a tee.”

Hall Of Fame Celtic Tom Heinsohn Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Almost nearly everyone whoever crossed paths with Tommy Heinsohn has some sort of story regarding the legendary player, coach and Celtics team broadcaster.

Heinsohn made an indelible mark not only on the Celtics, a franchise he spent over six decades with and won eight NBA titles for during his playing career and two more as a coach, but the rest of the NBA. The news of his passing on Tuesday at the age of 86 brought out heartfelt responses from those with ties to the organization and across the league.

“It’s devastating,” said Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck when he appeared on NBC Sports Boston. “He was the Celtics to a tee. All of him. He was everything to us.”

Brad Stevens got to know Heinsohn well once Stevens took over as coach of the Celtics in 2013 and lauded Heinsohn’s Hall of Fame character.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver delivered a moving statement regarding Heinsohn and admired the impact he made both locally and nationally. Silver also mentioned correctly that “Celtics games will not be the same without Tommy.”

“Tommy Heinsohn’s remarkable contributions to our game bridged generations and personified the Boston Celtics for more than 60 years,” Silver added.

Heinsohn’s broadcast partner Mike Gorman spent more time over the last several decades with Heinsohn than probably anyone else, and no matter how many times Gorman and Heinsohn called a game together, it was always a “special” moment for Gorman.

While Heinsohn was known for his prowess as a player and coach, he also became beloved for the catchphrases he coined during his time as a broadcaster. None were more popular than his “I love Waltah” saying for anything positive that former Celtics player Walter McCarty, who played for the C’s for eight seasons starting in 1997, did on the court and it’s something McCarty still hears to this day.

“Definitely at a loss for words today,” said McCarty via Instagram. “I’m saddened by the passing of my good buddy and friend Tommy, I can’t explain the relationship you and I have had over years but I’m so grateful. You were dear to my heart.”

Celtics legend Bill Russell entered the NBA alongside Heinsohn in 1956 and offered a fitting tribute for a longtime friend.

The outpouring of condolences for the beloved Heinsohn stretched far and wide, from Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to past stars like Paul Pierce and Isaiah Thomas. And while each had their own cherished memories of Heinsohn, there was a common thread of admiration and respect for a person that made the greatest of impacts.