A former Celtics #20 at a low point- a chance encounter

Larry Siegfried guarding Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West- looks like he may need help

Yes, the former #20 was Larry Siegfried, and I spoke with him at a low point in his life. It was in 1972 and I had taken a State of Massachusetts temporary position of River Warden while I attempted to figure out the path of the rest of my life. The encounter was almost surreal. I was patrolling the banks of the Squannacook River In Townsend, Massachusetts when I saw a guy fly fishing midstream. I recognized him immediately. It was former Celtic, Larry Siegfried.

I approached him, saw his fishing license from a distance displayed on his vest, and told him he could keep on fishing. He would have none of it. He wanted to talk, at least a little as I would find out. He walked up to me on the bank and showed me his license. Yup! Larry Siegfried all right. I told him I recognized him, and he asked, "Do I know you?" I told him he didn't but that I knew much about him. I told him that I was a Celts fan and admired his skills and toughness on the court. No lies there. He was tough. He had just retired from the NBA, playing for the Celtics and subsequently with other NBA teams.

Gordon has worn #20 since high school
I kept trying to get him to talk about himself, but all he wanted to hear is what path I was going to take. That rarely happens in our world, even in 1972. He was quiet and somewhat morose- not quite his normal manner as I read later. But he had seemed content to be on the river and had caught one trout, which he planned to cook and eat that evening.

Being on the river was most likely a nice diversion for a guy that had just left the high one must feel of being a five-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics. He eventually returned to the river to fish and went on to become a motivational speaker. He died at the age of 71.

"Ziggy's in his shirt tonight" was a common cry from Celtics announcer, Johnny Most. Ziggy was known for his defense and his free throw shooting. And his toughness. Look at the above photo. In the game against Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. Pretty tough opponents (I know it's just a photo, but it looks like he is guarding two super stars by himself). My readers know where I am going with this. Here is what the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan had to say after Larry's death:

Expansion came to the NBA in 1970, and Siggy was a casualty. He was taken by Portland and then traded to the San Diego Rockets. He stayed there for a year and then went to Houston. But Siggy's career ended quickly. He could not function outside of Boston.

He was a Celtic.

Gordon Hayward now wears #20 for the proud Boston Celtics organization. And he wears it deservedly. Mental toughness wins over physical toughness every time. Gordon has both.

I will be honest. I did not think he would make it in the NBA. Young, clean-cut kid looking like he just graduated from high school. I was wrong. He possesses mental toughness that is not visible until needed. We are lucky to have him. He will be back and we will contend for a championship. Siegfried's #20 belongs to Hayward now, and he has worn that number since high school. It may very well end up in the rafters of TD Garden as a tribute to him. But Gordon, a day or so before you return, could you do something about the hair. And could you talk to Aron Baynes about the same issue. Just kidding- kind of. Get well. We need you. To paraphrase Bob Ryan, you are a Celtic.

Ziggy photo via Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images
Hayward photo via Michael Conroy/AP