From now until February 11, Red’s Army will be posting stories about the players behind the Celtics’ 22 retired numbers and that one retired nickname. Stories will be posted in the order that the numbers were retired.
Two things stand out when you look at the three banners with all of the Celtics retired numbers. The two empty spots, and “LOSCY.”
There’d be one empty spot, though, if Loscy, better known as “Jungle” Jim Loscutoff, let the Celtics do what they wanted and retire his number 18.
As a forward at the University of Oregon, he was a premier rebounder (he holds the team record for most in a game: 32) and the team’s leading scorer before getting drafted. But at 6’5”, 220, he was a beast in the early days of the NBA. And since the Celtics had plenty of scorers, Loscutoff would spend his years in Boston as its enforcer. Said Tommy Heinsohn of Loscy’s role:
“Somebody would do something to one of us, and Red would say, ‘Go get him!’ ”
“He was there to rebound and to make sure that nothing happened to Bob Cousy.”
Loscy was a fierce rebounder his first two years with the Celtics (he was 10th in the NBA in total rebounds in his second season). His sophomore season was his best, when he averaged a double-double and was part of the Celtics first championship team. In fact, according to his wife, Loscutoff hit the game winning shot in Game 7 of that first Finals, which also happened to be the first time a Celtics game was televised.
A back injury limited Loscutoff him after that season, so from then on, he was basically on the floor to intimidate opponents… one way or the other.
“It’s unbelievable,” Loscutoff said, laughing at the memory of his glory days. “I’ve been out of the game 20 years, and people still call me up and ask me about how many people I hit.
“I’ll tell you what type of player I was. If somebody stood in my way, I’d knock them down. Even if they didn’t stand in my way, but if they were bothering another player, they’d have to deal with me. Red (Auerbach) didn’t tell me to play that way. I knew that was my role.”
Loscy would play nine seasons, all with the Celtics. He was part of seven championship teams earning the name “Jungle” Jim for more than the alliterative play on the playground staple. He was a beast who is still regarded as one of the most feared enforcers in sports history. He played at a time when the fights on the floor were real, and hard fouls were the best way to protect the basket.
Red Auerbach notoriously loved his enforcers. He loved Loscy so much that he wanted to retire his number 18. Loscy, though, declined and asked they keep the number in circulation so another Celtic could wear it. Dave Cowens ultimately got it and it was retired in his honor. So instead of a number 18 in the rafters for Loscutoff, the Celtics honored him by hanging his nickname in the rafters.
Loscutoff died about two years ago, but his legacy lives on, partly, at Camp Evergreen in Andover. The Loscutoffs founded the camp in 1964 and it’s still operating today.
He’s forever remembered as a tough guy in the league, but his teammates saw a softer side off the court. Camp Evergreen is another example of the gentle soul inside the sharp-elbowed exterior opponents got to know. Loscutoff was a unique character in Celtics history, so perhaps it’s fitting that he has this unique honor in the rafters.
The retired numbers project: