“He was the one person who smoked cigars in the Fleet Center; it was a non-smoking venue.” -Bill Russell on Red Auerbach.
A great victory deserves a great cigar. Championships in all sports, and often in all aspects of life, are cerebrated with victory cigars. For this article, we’re going to take a look at victory cigars that have a special place in NBA Championship Finals lore and legend.
When fans think of NBA Championships, they think of Red Aurebach. And when anyone thinks of Aurebach, besides his legendary basketball career as a coach and an executive, they think of his ever present cigar. Aurebach won nine NBA Championships as a coach and seven as an executive with the Boston Celtics. He was a basketball pioneer and after every NBA Championship his ever present cigar was always smoldering.
The Red Auerbach statue at Faneuil Hall in Boston has the great man’s bronzed hand wrapped not around a basketball but clutching his beloved cigar.
The 1966 NBA Finals were the last games Red Aurebach would coach his beloved Boston Celtics. The Celtics, led by Hall of Fame center Bill Russell, faced their crossed coast rival the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics finished off the feisty Lakers in a close seven game series and as they celebrated Red Aurebach and Bill Russell smiled and smoked victory cigars.
Bill Russell would replace Aurebach as the Celtics coach the next season becoming the first African American coach in NBA history.
In 1981, a top of his game Larry Bird led the Boston Celtics to a NBA Championship in six games over the Houston Rockets. A beaming Bird immediately fired up a big victory cigar in an image that became known as The King of The Garden. Nearby a happy Red Aurebach puffed away on a sweet cigar and enjoyed yet another championship season.
Michael Jordan’s almost as famous as a cigar smoker as he is a basketball player. In 1991, Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their first NBA Championship in franchise history. He was named MVP of the regular season and NBA Finals. After defeating Magic Johnson’s Lakers, an emotional Jordan smoked a victory cigar and sipped champagne. Many more victory cigars were in his future but the first sweet championship cigar is always the best.
After the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat to win the NBA Championship in 2011, victory cigars were passed around their private plane. A picture was snapped of owner Mark Cuban, happy in victory, slumped in his seat and smoking a large cigar. The politically correct crowd were not overly pleased with the puffs of smoke but the Mavericks and Mark Cuban did not seem to care.
In 2012 the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was overjoyed. Despite the media blitz and super stars on the Miami Heat team the image many fans recall of the victory celebration was of Coach Spoelstra soaked with beer, water, champagne and Gatorade but still happy and still holding onto his victory cigar.
Finally, for this year, Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to their first NBA Championship in 40 years by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers. Victory cigars materialized along with champagne, smiles and Gatorade.
Sometimes a cigar’s just a cigar Sigmund Freud once said. A victory cigar is always the smoke of celebration. The NBA Championship tradition of victory cigars continues and somewhere Red Aurebach smiles and lights a smoke.