In 1964-65, I was 14 and looking for fun. My friend Judie’s parents took us to a Celtics game, and we were astonished watching players like John Havlicek, K.C. Jones and Bill Russell in live, nonstop action.

Tickets were expensive (at $4, the same price as a Beatles ticket), so after that first game with her family, we devised ways to get in for free. The most reliable method was to get into the middle of a big family going through the turnstile, jerking our thumbs back saying, “Dad’s got our tickets!” Once past the beleaguered but smiling ticket taker, we’d race in to find the best unoccupied seats in Boston Garden.

Bill Russell, left, of the Boston Celtics holds his coach Red Auerbach under the shower after they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 95-93 to win their eighth straight NBA championship at the Boston Garden on April 28, 1966. Associated Press, File

After one game, as coaches and players were heading to the locker room, Judie and I jumped in front of Red Auerbach and practically demanded his autograph. We’d heard he was quite the curmudgeon, and I guess we were afraid a polite request would be denied. He stopped short, and without a word, signed for us. We were over the moon.

In 1969, I was at Logan airport headed to Philadelphia when I saw Tommy Heinsohn at a row of public phones. I looked around and I noticed that all the men milling around the gate were really tall. I was going to Philadelphia with the Celtics!

Once we were in the air, I strolled up to first class (back when you could do that) and tapped Bill Russell on the shoulder. He said, “I know what you’re going to say – ‘Why did you quit playing? You shouldn’t be coaching, you should be playing,’ right?” I told him I just wanted to say I’d been to almost every home game and that he was incredible. “Well, I thank you,” he replied. Once again, Bill Russell made my day.

Noreen Skoolicas

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