Celtics Legend Frank Ramsey, Who Revolutionized NBA’s ‘Sixth Man’ Role, Dies At 86

One of the keys to the great NBA dynasty of the Boston Celtics in the 1960s was the use of a “sixth man.”

The job of the player in this position — who often was talented enough to start — was to provide instant scoring, defense and plenty of energy as the first guy off the bench. This role became an important part of pro basketball when legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach used Frank Ramsey to give his championship teams of the 1950s and 1960s a lift from the bench.

Ramsey died Sunday at the age of 86, and on Monday, the Celtics tweeted a video to honor No. 23. It included a special tribute from Celtics legend Bill Russell on Ramsey’s sixth man legacy.

Ramsey helped the Celtics reach the NBA Finals in eight consecutive seasons from 1957 through 1964. Boston won seven of those championship series — its only loss coming in 1958. For his stellar play, Ramsey was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Ramsey was the central figure in popularizing the sixth man role, and the NBA created an award for it — Sixth Man of the Year — beginning in the 1982-83 season. Kevin McHale (1983-84 and 1984-85) and Bill Walton (1985-86) are the only Celtics players to win the award.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

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