Baller of the Day: Tom Heinsohn

» September 5, 2008 5:55 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Tom Heinsohn

Career Statistics

18.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 41 FG%, 79 FT%

“Known for his hard-nosed style of play, yet possessing a superb shooting touch and good body control, Tom Heinsohn was a vital cog in the Boston Celtics’ dynasty of the 1950s and 1960s. Chosen as NBA Rookie of the Year in 1957, he helped the Celtics win eight NBA titles during his nine-year tenure, was named to the All-NBA Second Team for four years, and was an All-Star for six.

Averaging 18.6 ppg in 654 regular-season games, he was a versatile scorer but was often overshadowed by such illustrious teammates as Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman and Bill Russell. After turning in his jersey in 1965, Heinsohn coached the Celtics to two more world championships and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1986.

Born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the river from New York City, Heinsohn attended Saint Paul of the Cross school through the fifth grade. Then his family moved to nearby Union City, New Jersey, and he was introduced to basketball while attending sixth grade at Saint Joseph’s.

A high achiever, Heinsohn poured his heart and soul into the sport, practicing as much as he could, both at school and on local playgrounds. By the time he reached the eighth grade he was leading his team in scoring.

As a junior at St. Michael’s High School he was awarded all-county honors. The following year he was named a high school All-American after averaging 28 ppg. After considering more than 40 scholarship offers he decided on Holy Cross College.

Heinsohn continued to improve during his collegiate years, playing under coaches Lester Sheary and Roy Leenig. He pumped in 23.3 ppg in his junior year and as a senior he set a Holy Cross scoring record by averaging 27.4 ppg. Named to almost every All-America team, he also made the dean’s list for scholastic excellence in his last four semesters.

The Celtics claimed Heinsohn as a territorial pick in the 1956 NBA Draft, the same year that Boston Coach Red Auerbach worked a deal with the St. Louis Hawks for the rights to a rookie named Bill Russell. Auerbach was impressed with Russell’s potential, but he wasn’t particularly optimistic about Heinsohn’s chances of making the team. Heinsohn responded by flying to Illinois to look into the possibility of playing amateur ball for a national industrial league. If Cousy hadn’t advised the youngster to stick with Boston, Heinsohn might never have played in the NBA.” [Read]

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2 Responses to “Baller of the Day: Tom Heinsohn”

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