Tom Heinsohn’s influence in today’s NBA has boiled down to how many Tommy Points he hands out on a given night to the Boston Celtics.
Back in the day, Heinsohn still dished out points, but they were the ones that actually counted on the court. As the Boston Celtics’ official gunner, he shot so much and so often that he was nicknamed “Tommy Gun” and “Ack-Ack.” You know, “Ack-Ack” as in the sound a gun makes when in rapid fire.
On many teams having a man flinging hook shots nearly 20 feet from the basket would result in discord and ill-feelings. The Boston Celtics, though, could subsume Heinsohn’s free-shooting ways and turn it into a strength. The Celtics would look to score easily on the break, but if that failed Heinsohn could always work his way into a good shoot… or at least a shot… that no other Celtic could manage in the half-court as time ran low on the shot clock.
Compared to his contemporaries only Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain could outmatch Heinsohn’s propensity to shoot.
Player – Shots per minute through the 1965 season
Wilt Chamberlain – 0.69 shots
Elgin Baylor – 0.63
Heinsohn – 0.61
Bob Pettit – 0.56
Sam Jones – 0.55
Cliff Hagan – 0.54
Jack Twyman – 0.54
Jerry West – 0.53
Oscar Robertson – 0.49
Hal Greer – 0.48
Richie Guerin – 0.47
That’s a lot of shots per minute, but Heinsohn’s unremarkable conditioning limited him to barely 30 minutes a night in his career. However he possessed a natural agility that made him hard to handle for defenses when he was in the game. He could score on his vaunted hook shots, a sweet jump shot, and strong driving moves. His finest moment may have come in his very first season as he scored 37 points and hauled in 23 rebounds in Game 7 of the 1957 NBA Finals to clinch Boston its first NBA title.
The glory continued for Heinsohn through the years. He was Boston’s go-to scorer for most of the late 1950s and early 1960s helping lead the club to 7 more NBA titles before retiring in 1965. As coach of the Celtics in the 1970s he led them to two more titles in 1974 and 1976 giving Heinsohn a personal total of 10 NBA titles.
That’s a pretty good haul for Boston’s vaunted gunner.
Years Played: 1956 – 1965
8x Champion (1957, 1959-’65)
4x All-NBA 2nd Team (1961-’64)
6x All-Star (1957, 1961-’65)
Rookie of the Year (1957)
NBA - 654 Games
18.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 40.5% FG, 79.0% FT
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1956-57 through 1964-65 season)
7th Points, 16th PPG
6th FGs Made
11th FTs Made, 22nd FT%
9th Rebounds, 23rd RPG
4th Games Played, 11th Minutes Played