Toby Kimball, RIP — excerpted from The Boston Globe:
A prep star for Belmont Hill School who hailed from Sudbury, the 6-foot-8 forward led the nation in rebounding as a senior at UConn. He was taken in the third round by the Celtics in the 1965 draft and, after a season refining his shooting skills in Italy, played the 1966-1967 season with his hometown team. It was his first of nine NBA seasons.
“What a thrill, and a surprise, to be picked by the Celtics — my team,’’ Mr. Kimball said after the draft.
Sadly, Kimball’s career was best summarized by the word, “pain.” In his only year as a Celtic, rookie year of 66-67, he suffered a severe knee injury and was never the same….
“As I came down I was turning to pass the ball down the court on a fast break, so as I came down my kneecap went from the front of my body to the back of my body,” he said earlier this year.
Bill Russell held his head while doctors tried to put his kneecap back in place. Russell was holding his head, Mr. Kimball said, because he was banging it on the parquet floor in hopes of passing out.
Instead of having surgery, he was placed in a body cast; the knee never healed properly.
As he neared the end of his career, Mr. Kimball said, he adopted a daily regimen of stealth visits to neighborhood spas for whirlpools and “four or five’’ different painkillers.
“It was worth it…”
“The thing is, you’d never want the team to know,’’ he said. “They say ‘report all injuries.’ Well, that’s fine, but what happens if you report all injuries? You report too many and they say, ‘See you later.’ ’’
When he was finally cut by his last team, New Orleans, he received the news while sitting in a whirlpool.
In 571 games, though, Mr. Kimball averaged 6.1 points a game and 6.8 rebounds.
When people asked him if his career was worth it, Mr. Kimball told Montville he would reply:
“I say that if I add up the money, the friends I made, the places I saw . . . playing in the National Basketball Association was worth it, even with the pain.