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.”
"He was the Celtics. To a tee. He was everything to us." - Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck pic.twitter.com/5xqXDAWdQW— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) November 10, 2020
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.
Rest In Peace, Tommy. You have meant so much to the six decades of Celtics’ fans that you shared the game with as a HOFer in every facet... An Incredible person, teammate and mentor. https://t.co/gdQ0CHTQd1— Brad Stevens (@BCCoachStevens) November 10, 2020
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.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement today regarding the passing of Tommy Heinsohn: pic.twitter.com/eU1obKi5X0— NBA (@NBA) November 10, 2020
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.
Roughly 2800 times I sat down with Tommy to broadcast a game. Every time it was special. HOF player...HOF coach...HOF partner. Celtics Nation has lost its finest voice. Rest In Peace my friend. It has been the privilege of my professional life to be the Mike in Mike & Tommy.— Mike Gorman (@celticsvoice) November 10, 2020
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.”
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Definitely at a loss for words today. 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. Though we played in different eras, our love and respect for one another did not. My favorite Celtic memories include dinners at your house with guys like Cous, Hondo, and Satch. There, I truly learned what being a Celtic was all about. There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t hear the phrase you coined, “I Love Waltah” from people of all ages that I’ve never met. That wouldn’t be possible without you my friend. You meant and touched so many lives on and off the court, I’m just happy to be on one of those pages. I will miss you my friend. I will miss giving you hugs and seeing that great big smile. I will cherish the special bond that you and I had. May you rest in heaven big guy. Give Helen a Waltah hug for me. I love you T. Waltah #celtics #legend #15 #hof #boston
Celtics legend Bill Russell entered the NBA alongside Heinsohn in 1956 and offered a fitting tribute for a longtime friend.
We were rookies together and friends for life. In life there are a limited number of true friends, today I lost one.— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) November 10, 2020
RIP Heiny. pic.twitter.com/nKJn0DqgJJ
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.