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A Brief History of Boston Celtics Memorial Patches

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Good morning Uni Watchers! I hope everyone has had a good weekend. A couple quick notes:

• The Minnesota Twins are expected to unveil their City Connect uniforms later this morning, and late last night we got a purported leak of the team’s CC socks (h/t to Maureen Holt).

Those don’t give away too much in terms of the jersey, but it seems to confirm the water theme they’ve teased twice. I would be willing to bet the jersey is navy, and has those same royal ripples as are seen on the navy socks (and sublimated similar to the Cardinals CC). The socks also sport “MN” with a yellow north star graphic between and atop the letters. Note also the bright yellow of the socks. Does that indicate a predominantly navy blue jersey with yellow and light blue accents? We won’t have too much longer to wait.

I’ll have full coverage of the uniforms after they are released.

• If you missed it or didn’t read over the weekend, Jim Vilk will be running the popular “Our Dads in Uniform” (Father’s Day) piece that I first introduced back in 2013. Scroll down for all the details and deadline, and where you can send your submissions.

But before we get to the Twins CC, our own Anthony Emerson has a very special (and thoroughly researched) article detailing the history of Boston Celtics Memorial Patches. It’s another really excellent article from Anthony. Enjoy!

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A Brief History of Celtics Memorial Patches
by Anthony Emerson

In game one of the NBA Finals, the Celtics honored the late Bill Walton with a moving tribute video and shooting shirts with his name in a tie-dye motif. They also added a black memorial band on the left shoulder of their jerseys. This latter move surprised me — while Walton was an iconic player and broadcaster, and was a pivotal player on the legendary 1986 Celtics, he doesn’t come to mind as an iconic Celtic. He played just two seasons (1985-86, where he won Sixth Man of the Year, and an injury-plagued 1986-87, where he played only ten regular season and twelve postseason games) in Boston before his injury troubles sadly ended his career prematurely. His No. 5 was reissued 12 times starting 1990 and to players such as Jay Humphries, Jérôme Moïso, and Kedrick Brown (the number was ultimately retired in 2022 for Kevin Garnett).

This triggered a thought: the Celtics have honored a ton of players, coaches and executives with jersey memorials in their history. Who, specifically, has received this honor? How often have the Celtics honored someone this way?

A note: the further back we go, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find photos, so I may have missed one (or several).

Oct. 27, 2023: “Maine” memorial band

The Celtics added a memorial band for victims of the Lewiston shooting, and wore it for their home opener this season against the Heat. The shooting occurred at a bar and bowling alley during the team’s first game of the season on October 25, against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The band read “Maine.” The team’s NBAGL affiliate, which is based thirty minutes south of Lewiston in Portland, wore a similar blue memorial band reading “Lewiston” for their entire season.

2022-23: Bill Russell leaguewide memorial patch

Every NBA team wore this memorial patch for the giant that was Bill Russell, though no doubt the Celtics would’ve worn a similar patch (perhaps with a similar design to last year’s City Edition?) had the league not created a uniform one.

2022: Sam Jones “24” memorial band

Sam Jones died on Dec. 30, 2021, and the Celtics wore a memorial band with his number 24 on it for the remainder of their season, into the NBA Finals.

2021: Tom Heinsohn and KC Jones combined memorial band

Tom Heinsohn died in November 9, 2020. One of the few people elected to the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, Heinsohn also broadcast Celtics games until his death. The Celtics initially added a memorial band reading “Tommy,” but two games into the season (starting late due to COVID), former player and coach K.C. Jones also died, leading to a combined memorial band worn for the remainder of the season.

2020: David Stern leaguewide memorial band

After former commissioner David Stern’s death on New Year’s Day in 2020, all NBA teams added a black memorial band.

2019: John Havlicek “17” memorial band

John Havlicek died shortly before the Celtics’ second-round matchup with the Bucks in 2019. The Celtics wore this memorial band for five games. In this case, I wish the Celtics had worn the patch the succeeding season — Havlicek is responsible for one of the most memorable moments in NBA history, and was a key piece of eight titles. Wearing the band for only five games (four of them losses) doesn’t seem fitting to me. This memorial band also marks the first of what I would now call the Celtics’ memorial template: the name or number of the person being honored in white on the band.

2018: Jo Jo White memorial band

The Celtics added a plain black band after Jo Jo White’s death in January of 2018, worn for the remainder of the season.

2017: Chyna Thomas memorial band

On April 15, 2017 — the day before the Celtics’ opening playoff game against the Bulls — Isaiah Thomas’ 22-year-old sister, Chyna, died in a car accident. Thomas, the heart and soul of the Celtics at the time, played every game of that playoff run, which culminated in a five-game loss to the Cavaliers in the conference finals. According to reports at the time, coach Brad Stevens led the charge for the memorial band.

2013: Boston Marathon bombing memorial patch

After initially adding a black band in the immediate aftermath of the bombing for their final regular season game in Toronto, the Celtics added a memorial patch in Boston Athletic Association colors for the playoffs. The screen-printed design depicted a yellow heart and laurels in a blue circle, underneath the inscription “Boston Stands As One.” The Celtics wore this patch six times in their first-round defeat to the Knicks, the last Celtics uniforms Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce ever wore as they were shipped off to the Nets in the summer.

2006-07: Red Auerbach memorial patch and Dennis Johnson memorial band

The worst season in Celtics history was preceded by the death of the architect of the franchise, Red Auerbach. Auerbach served as either coach or executive for the team from 1950 until his death on October 28, 2006. The Celtics honored him with a memorial patch, the first in the team’s history, depicting a black shamrock outlined in green with “Red” written in it. At certain points throughout the season, players would wear headbands with the number 2 as a nod to Auerbach; though he never played for the Celtics, the number 2 was retired in Auerbach’s honor as the second-most important person in Celtics history, behind only team founder Walter Brown. The Celtics would later add a black memorial band for legendary point guard Dennis Johnson, who died in February.

2001-02: Leaguewide Sept. 11 memorial patch

All NBA teams added a memorial patch following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The patch depicted an American flag surrounded by a red, white and blue ribbon. The Raptors version included a Canadian flag.

2000-01: Dorothy Auerbach “DLA” memorial band

Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

It’s almost impossible to see, but this memorial band features the initials “DLA” for Red Auerbach’s wife, Dorothy, who died in October of 2000.

1993-94: Reggie Lewis memorial band

The Celtics added a memorial band for Reggie Lewis after his death in July 1993. He had collapsed during the Celtics’ playoff series against the Hornets the preceding spring.

1993: Johnny Most memorial band

Longtime Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most died at 69 in January 1993 after numerous health issues attributed to his lifelong smoking habit. The Celtics honored him with a sizeable memorial band, smaller than the one they would use for Reggie Lewis in the succeeding season. Lewis would be wearing this memorial band the last time he stepped on an NBA court, when he collapsed against the Hornets in the playoffs, the first sign of the heart problem that would kill him in the summer.

1989-90: Joan Cohen “Follow Through” memorial band

Like the Dorothy Auerbach memorial band a decade later, this memorial band also features a message that you can’t really see: “Follow Through“. I can find no contemporaneous reporting on it, but various lot details for auctions of game-worn jerseys from this season mention that the memorial band is for the wife of Celtics then-co-owner Alan Cohen, Joan, who died in 1989.

1975-76: Bob Schmertz memorial band

The Celtics honored Bob Schmertz, who owned the team from 1972 until his death in July 1975, with a memorial band in their title-winning season.

1964-65: Walter A. Brown memorial band

The first time the Celtics memorialized someone on their jerseys was in 1964, for team founder Walter Brown. Brown, who had the number 1 retired for him as the most important person in Celtics history, had owned and operated the team from its founding in 1946 until his death. As you can see, the position of this band is quite high up compared to later versions.

Closing thoughts

By my count, the Celtics have honored six players (Walton, Sam Jones, Havlicek, White, Johnson, Lewis), two players who also served as head coach (Russell, K.C. Jones), two owners (Brown and Schmertz), one spouse of an owner (Cohen), the victims of three terrorist acts (Sept. 11, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Lewiston mass shooting), one spouse of an executive (Dorothy Auerbach), one coach/executive (Red Auerbach), one broadcaster (Most), one sister of an active player (Thomas), one commissioner (Stern), and one person who served as a player, coach, and broadcaster (Heinsohn). The team has also worn leaguewide memorials three times, for Russell (who doubtlessly would’ve received his own patch had the league not implemented a leaguewide one), Stern, and Sept. 11.

In each of the past seven seasons, the Celtics have worn a memorial band for at least one game.

Getting your number retired by the Celtics is not a guarantee that you will get a memorial patch — Bill Sharman, Ed Macauley, and Frank Ramsey wore numbers 21 through 23 respectively, and those numbers were each retired for them. All three died in the past 15 years, and the Celtics did not add a memorial patch or band on each occasion. And in Walton’s case, not having his number retired was not an obstacle to receiving a memorial band.

The Celtics have only gone the memorial patch route twice, for Auerbach and after the Boston Marathon bombing — the other memorial patches, for Russell and Sept. 11, were league-implemented. On every other occasion, the Celtics have used memorial bands.

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Thanks, Anthony. Fantastic job on this, and thanks for all the deep research.

 

 
  
 

"Our Dads In Uniform" Father's Day Reminder

Father’s Day is coming this Sunday, and Jim will be posting photos of Uni Watch readers’ “Dads In Uniform,” an annual tradition that began in 2013. This is always a very special day, and we’d love for as many readers as possible to participate — especially those of you who haven’t done so before.

To take part, email one photo of your father, grandfather, or uncle in uniform (it can be sports, military, work — as long as it’s a uniform). along with a short description of 100 words or fewer, to jimvilk@gmail.com by Wednesday, June 12th, 11:59pm Eastern. Again, only one photo per person and limit the descriptive text to 100 words. Jim will run all of the submissions on Father’s Day. Thanks!

 

 

Uni Concepts and Tweaks

Time for more Uni Tweaks from the UW readership.

I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).

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Today’s concept come from Ed Westfield, and it’s more tongue-in-cheek than anything, but it’s also pretty good.

Big Papi joked that the Mets should Move to Oklahoma

Ed

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I gotta admit, I really love this. Thanks, Ed!

OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.

 

 

Guess the Game from the Uniform


Based on the suggestion of long-time reader/contributor Jimmy Corcoran, we’ve introduced a new “game” on Uni Watch, which is similar to the popular “Guess the Game from the Scoreboard” (GTGFTS), only this one asked readers to identify the game based on the uniforms worn by teams.

Like GTGFTS, readers will be asked to guess the date, location and final score of the game from the clues provided in the photo. Sometimes the game should be somewhat easy to ascertain, while in other instances, it might be quite difficult. There will usually be a visual clue (something odd or unique to one or both of the uniforms) that will make a positive identification of one and only one game possible. Other times, there may be something significant about the game in question, like the last time a particular uniform was ever worn (one of Jimmy’s original suggestions). It’s up to YOU to figure out the game and date.

Today’s GTGFTU comes from Dave Feit.

Good luck and please post your guess/answer in the comments below.

 

 

And finally...

…that’s it for the early post. Big thanks to Anthony for this really in-depth look at the Boston Celtics memorial patches — I’m sure there a lot more than you had remembered. Great stuff!

Jamie’s Ticker will follow shortly, and it’s chock-full of stuff, and then I’ll have the full rundown of the Minnesota Twins CC uniforms after they’re unveiled. I spoke to one of the Twins beat reporters last Friday and he has seen them, but was sworn to secrecy, even having to sign an NDA with Nike. So they’re really keeping this one under tight control. I’m frankly surprised they almost made it, assuming the socks mentioned at the top of this post are legit, given that almost every other CC jersey from 2024 has been leaked. Stay tuned.

Everyone have a great day and I’ll catch you tomorrow morning.

Peace,

PH

Comments (0)

    The OKC Mets concept makes me more convinced the team should go back to the New York script for the away uniforms.

    I’m sure if establishing a winning culture were as simple as buying a team president and general manager at a flea market, the Mets would do it. Far more teams follow a good season with a bad one (Royals, Mariners, Reds, White Sox, Cubs, Padres, etc.) in the manner of the Mets, than have a tradition of continued success, like, say, the Braves.
    Although moving to OKC certainly would get them away from under the Yankees’ shadow. Just ask the Dodgers and Giants.

    Love the OKC concept. I know the racing stripes aren’t popular but when I was a kid the Mets wore these as did the Tribe, Astros and a few others. The 87 script was a unique look that I always thought they should’ve kept. And I love the paradoxical OKC Mets. Falls in line with other relocated franchises like Utah Jazz, LA Dodgers, LA Lakers, Arizona Cardinals. Not places you think of when it comes to the representative mascot.

    Just saw the Twins CCs on Instagram.
    Terrible, just like most.
    The Miami CCs remain the only ones that I actually like.

    Twins CC officially released: link

    As is typical, some interesting design elements muddled by Nike maximalism.

    OKC Mets has a nice ring to it and the jersey looks fine but no: the Mets belong in Queens. The Celtics article is very informative and shows that the franchise has had a big share of losses in the green family.

    GTGFTU…1974 Cotton Bowl.

    Signing an NDA for a uniform release? Nike acting like it’s a matter of national security!

    I too like that OKC concept. This would work great if they were a Mets farm team.

    On the Twins concept writeup, does anyone see the baseball stitches that make up the loon’s eyes? And you don’t “hone in” on anything, you “home in” on something. If you’re going to marketspeak nonsense, at least speak properly.

    Even as a concept, the OKC Mets is meh. If nothing else, the number belongs on the wearer’s left when teams wear script wordmarks that rise up toward the end.

    I’m trying to reply to MJ above but keep getting a 403 Forbidden error. Anyway… here’s an article about “home in” vs “hone in”.
    link.

    Thanks Patrick. We first became aware of the problem late last night, and we’re working on it.

    (I can’t reply directly to you from the main page, but am instead replying via the back end)

    If the Oklahoma City Mets really existed and wore that jersey, they would immediately be the best-dressed team in baseball. #racingstripes4life

Comments are closed.