Smart Honored to Earn Inaugural ‘Tommy Award’ as C’s Celebrate Heinsohn’s Legacy

Tommy Heinsohn took a special liking to Marcus Smart when the 20-year-old Texas native first arrived in Boston in the fall of 2014. The legendary Celtics player/coach/broadcaster loved Smart’s grit and hustle, and he saw in the young guard the same selfless pride that he himself had possessed for more than half of a century: Celtics Pride.

It was only fitting that Smart – the heart and soul of the current Celtics roster – would win the inaugural “Tommy Award” as a part of Tommy Heinsohn Day at TD Garden.

The Celtics and NBC Sports Boston commemorated the late, great Celtics Legend throughout Sunday’s matchup with the Miami Heat, giving Celtics Nation the opportunity to celebrate the incomparable legacy that Heinsohn established over a 65-year span with the organization.

“I’ve thought about him I think probably every day,” Celtics majority owner and governor Wyc Grousbeck said looking back on Heinsohn's passing six months prior. “I don’t feel like he’s gone yet. I don’t want him to be gone. We want to remember him every way that we can.”

One of the ways in which the team will remember him is through the Tommy Award, an annual version of NBC Sports Boston’s gamely recognition of the same name, which will be presented to the Celtic who “best embodies attributes of hustle, effort, and pride throughout the season.”

And being its first recipient and a close friend of Heinsohn, Smart couldn’t have felt more humbled and honored.

“Tommy has meant a lot to this city, to this organization,” Smart said after receiving the award prior to Sunday’s 130-124 loss to the Heat. “And with all my years being here, listening to, “The Tommy Award goes to… The Tommy Award goes to…” and to actually have this Tommy Award and this plaque, it means a lot.”

Throughout the years, Smart and his teammates and the Celtics who came before them cherished any sort of recognition or stamp of approval with Heinsohn’s name on it. The ultimate endorsement was to receive a “Tommy Point” – essentially a hustle point – which he would verbally present (with tremendous enthusiasm) throughout his broadcasts with play-by-play partner Mike Gorman.

“I used to go back and watch the games at home just to see how many Tommy Points I was getting throughout the course of the game,” former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins recalled Sunday afternoon during the NBC Sports Boston pregame show. “It makes you want to play harder. It makes you dive on the floor and do the little things. It makes you lay it all out on the line and leave it all out on the floor. That’s how I used to go about it when I was playing with the Celtics and I just always wanted to rack up those Tommy Points.”

Along with Tommy Points, there were also Tommy pointers. Long after his coaching days were over, Heinsohn would still pull players over to the side and give them advice, and those players appreciated every bit of wisdom the Hall-of-Famer had to share.

“He would pull me over and, “Mahcus, let me talk to you,” Smart recalled, imitating Heinsohn’s recognizable, raspy Boston accent. “And we’d talk about how the game is going, how I’m doing, how he’s doing, just making sure to go out there and always have fun and don’t really worry about my shot. 'Don’t’ think about it, just shoot the ball.' Definitely having someone of Tommy’s credentials be able to talk to you and take the time out of his day to sit there and try to help you … It just means a lot.”

It has also meant a lot to Smart and his teammates to have the opportunity to wear Heinsohn’s name on their jersey this season alongside that of the late K.C. Jones who passed away in December. Their names are inscribed on a black rectangular patch on the left shoulder of Boston's uniforms, serving as a reminder of the marks that they both left upon the organization.

“He’s the true definition of being a Celtic, and I think that goes without being said,” Smart said of Heinsohn. “And to be able to wear that patch and to honor him is an honor in itself, and I’m grateful to be able to have that opportunity to honor him.”

No person was more grateful to honor Heinsohn Sunday afternoon than his longtime broadcast colleague, Mike Gorman. The pair spent a remarkable 39 years together in the booth, although Gorman’s appreciation for Heinsohn dates well beyond their partnership.

Gorman wrote in November about his perspective as a 10-year-old fan following Boston’s first championship run in 1957, and how Heinsohn’s 37-point, 23-rebound Game 7 Finals effort as a rookie was his introduction to the concept of Celtics Pride.

“Tom Heinsohn lit the fire that would become Celtics Pride, and it still burns bright 60 odd years later,” Gorman wrote.

Heinsohn’s legacy will also continue to burn bright, as the Celtics will honor him every year and every day for as long as they put on his beloved green and white uniform.


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