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You may remember the scene from the terrific movie Good Will Hunting, where Will fucks with the different psychologists he's supposed to meet with.  The funny thing is, and what many people probably didn't know, is the other guy in this scene is George Plimpton, and he once played for the Celtics in a pre-season game.

Much like Alex English playing for the Celtics (and Ahmad Rashad with the 76ers back in the 90s) the NBA apparently used to be much more lenient with who got to play where during pre-season games.  Plimpton was an esteemed journalist and a graduate of Harvard, and had the opportunity to play professional baseball and football and write about those experiences.  For the 1968-69 pre-season, he got to play with the World Champion Celtics.

He practiced a bit with former Knick All-Star Bill Bradley who prepared Plimpton with dribbling and shooting drills.   On defense, Bradley told him to "watch the belly button.  The only player with a belly button that sashays around is Oscar Robertson's."

Although George was 6'4 and 180 (decent size for a basketball player) he was in over his head.  He rode the Celtics' bench and practiced with them for awhile until Coach Bill Russell inserted him into an exhibition game vs the Hawks.  He was called for a foul and an assist (to Rich Johnson who inexcusably doesn't have a WTHHT written on him yet; until I realized he passed away back in 1994, before the dawn of the internet) during his one game.  At the end of the year after the Celtics' won the title, they presented Plimpton with a commemorative 1969 World Champion Celtics' watch.  Of course driving in a snowstorm on the Mass Turnpike, and trying to clear the snow off his car, Plimpton lost the watch out the window.  When he backed the car up and found it, it had been flattened (his wife would later contact the Celtics about how distraught he was and they gave him another).

His time with the Celtics was memorable.  Certain things he pointed out in his book On Sports:
  • Bill Russell was called the Great Bearded one.  At George's practice he'd roll in 30 minutes late (it was the games that got Russell stoked; on a side note its funny how Iverson took all that crap for his rant on "practice" meanwhile Russell openly despised practicing but the notion is poo-pooed.  Maybe 11 titles in 13 years will do that for you).
  • Hank Finkel created a drink with vodka and apple juice and while entertaining guests in the future, Plimpton would pull out the concoction and call it "the Finkel."
  • Satch Sanders would watch movies with the sound muted, so he could envision what was going on and give it his own dialogue
  • John Havlicek's most memorable time with the Celtics wasn't "stealing the ball."  It was when Red Auerbach called him into his office and told him he wanted him to shoot.  Havlicek had gotten accustomed to feeding high octane scorers at Ohio State and figured he'd be doing the same in Boston.
  • He was at Game 7 in 1969 when the Celtics ruined the Flakers' balloons-in-the-rafters party.  He sat next to Red Auerbach for the game.  When Don Nelson's shot bounced in, Red lit up his cigar.  Plimpton watched the entire thing.
  • After the Celtics won that game, Larry Siegfried partied so much that night that he was wheeled onto the plane home in a wheel-chair.
  • Everyone was aware of Bill Russell's famous vomiting sessions, to get himself worked up.  It was also known that Bill would prepare for that night's matchup by going over in his mind time and time again who he was going up against and how it would play out.  What's interesting though is as he got older, Russell's psychokinetic preparation would lose its luster so Russ would try other mental catalysts.  The one Plimpton describes is that Bill would "imagine himself as a deputy marshal in a Texan cowpoke town full of desperadoes- the Los Angeles Lakers wearing black hats and villainous beards, and clearing them out in a long sequence of derring-do."  Seriously how fucking awesome is Bill Russell?
  • Even though he was born in NYC the Celtics were always his team. "Being a New Yorker, I don't see much of the Celtics these days.  Because of their diminished stature, they don't appear on national television very often.  The twin tragedies involving Len Bias and Reggie Lewis have decimated the franchise and destroyed the potential of a dynastic reign.  It doesn't lessen my love for the team.  When they come in to play the Knicks, I go to MSG and waive to Tommy Heinsohn and Bob Cousy and if I can get close enough I tell them "Next year."
Plimpton passed away in 2003 so he wasn't able to enjoy the Celtics' title in 2008.  Unfortunately he also loved the Red Sox, and just missed out on them winning it in 2004.

So the next time you watch Good Will Hunting and see this scene, other than laughing at it (which you should because it's really funny) just remember that Plimpton got to play with the C's.  How do you like dem apples Matt Damon?

tb727 2/16/2013 05:52:00 PM Edit
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