One of the great parts about being a Boston sports fan is the love of the hometown team by everyone, especially the announcers. Tommy Heinsohn, the voice of the Boston Celtics, epitomizes this.
Tommy Heinsohn, voice of the Boston Celtics, has arrived to work.
He doesn’t immerse himself in pregame details or history. He is the history. Drafted out of Holy Cross in 1956—Red Auerbach’s “territorial pick,” as they called it then—the 6-foot-7 New Jersey native has been with the Celtics for 60 years as a player, a coach, and for decades now as a broadcaster. 60 years! At 81, Heinsohn remains broad-shouldered, imposing. He might not be ready to run the fast break like his Celtics did in the old days, but he looks as he might get you two or three boards if you sent him out on that parquet. Maybe more than two or three.
Everyone in these tunnels knows him. Everyone in Celtics Nation does, too. Taking a seat at a table not far from the home team’s locker room before a game against Portland, Heinsohn recited a quip once made by his broadcasting partner, Mike Gorman: A generation of basketball fans remember Heinsohn as a player, another generation remembers him as a coach…“and the current generation thinks he’s Shrek.”
Heinsohn shook and laughed, Shrek-like.
He is green for life, unabashedly. “The ultimate homer,” he called himself, with no prompting. In an era in which sports broadcasting has been professionalized, corporatized, nationalized, and often homogenized, Heinsohn is honest hometown heart. Thanks to social media and the NBA’s “League Pass” TV package, younger, out-of-town fans have been discovering Heinsohn’s voice, now on CSN New England. When people who aren’t from Boston hear Tommy being Tommy, their reactions can be delightful. Who is this growly man exalting no-name Celtics, bashing opponents, railing on the officials (“Aw COME ON, ya gotta be KIDDING ME!” “That is BOGUS!”), sounding like a Flintstone leaning out of a truck stuck in traffic?