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Boston Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn died today at 86. He spent the vast majority of his life—64 years!—as a player, then a coach, and finally a broadcaster for the team. Heinsohn isn't the most famous player nor is he the most famous coach in team history, but he's been involved in every single one of the team's 17 titles.

One of his lesser-known contributions to the NBA was arguably his most important. Heinsohn was the president of the Players Association in 1964, and he helped wring important concessions from management when he led a near-strike at the 1964 All-Star Game. Players in the league now have the most power out of any union in sports, and they have Heinsohn to thank for grabbing management by the balls right before the first-ever All-Star Game to be televised and getting a suite of concessions.

He also correctly understood that Bill Russell was the goddamn man, and deserved more respect than he ever got. From a 1999 Sports Illustrated story:

Look, all I know is, the guy won two NCAA championships, 50-some college games in a row, the ['56] Olympics, then he came to Boston and won 11 championships in 13 years, and they named a fucking tunnel after Ted Williams.


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