Tony Lavelli was a musician by heart – but he was so good at Basketball that the Boston Celtics could not let him go.
Tony Lavelli was a good basketball player for Yale. In his four years there, he averaged 22 points and caught the eye of the Boston Celtics. He got drafted by them in the 1949-50 season, the first season of the new league – the NBA. He only played two seasons of professional basketball, after which he quit the game.
While this is nothing to write home about, it is only a part of a much larger and fascinating story. Tony you see, was never interested in playing professional basketball. He claims to have only learned how to play it, just to impress his friends!
Imagine being so good at something you picked up as a way to impress someone when you’re a teenager. That’s like a kid picking up a guitar in his teens and then he becomes the next lead guitarist of the Foo Fighters.
Tony was adamant that he did not want to play basketball at all. Playing in a league meant that he could not enroll in Julliard – the place he wanted to go. This is the final piece of the story. Tony Lavelli, the boy wonder of basketball, was a really good musician and wanted to compose musical comedies. The fact that he was so good at two things and got to do both in life, is astounding.
Tony Lavelli played for two seasons in the newly formed NBA – one for the Celtics and one for the Knicks
Lavelli only accepted the Celtics offer on one condition – that he would be allowed to play his accordion at halftime as the halftime entertainment. Nowadays people are treated to half-court shots, dance performances, and circus feats, but in 1949, the audiences were wowed by the same person making buckets.
Tony’s performances gathered so much attention and gained popularity that historians claim that these very performances were the ones that saved the franchise – they were on the verge of going under. The crowds he drew and the money from those ticket sales kept them afloat, and have become the powerhouse you see today.
Tony moved the season after getting drafted to the Knicks – for one specific reason. Julliard was in New York, and he enrolled in courses while playing basketball as well. He retired the next year to focus on music. While there have been many instances of strange and eclectic basketball contracts, Tony Lavelli’s must be the strangest. His story of becoming a basketball player on accident is something that many more people should know.