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Happy 30th for Celtics tandem

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / March 18, 2011

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At the risk of agitating fans of a certain baseball team in New York, and perhaps even one over on Yawkey Way, it may be fair to say that numbers matter significantly more in the lore of the Celtics than with any other franchise in professional sports.

No. 6. No. 17. No. 33. They serve as instant reminders of times and places and championships, of the icons named Russell and Havlicek and Bird who delivered so many memorable victories while wearing those jerseys.

The number 30 has never evoked such sentiment and nostalgia. Cedric Maxwell wore it briefly, but when he put the Celtics on his back in the ’81 Finals, the number on his back was 31. Len Bias holds it up, hauntingly, in a photo. Those who have worn it recently (Mark Blount, Sebastian Telfair, Rasheed Wallace) have done little to build its legacy.

Which is where Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn come in. The legendary broadcast tandem has been celebrated this season for their uninterrupted run in calling the team’s games: 30 years, to be exact.

Comcast SportsNet New England, the Celtics’ television home, is paying particular homage this week. Tonight, a retrospective of highlights, anecdotes, and memorable calls from their approximately 1,700 games together, “30 Seasons of Mike and Tommy,’’ will air at 7:30.

This comes on the heels of Wednesday’s pregame ceremony in which they were each presented with a framed jersey with, yes, the number 30.

“It’s all very flattering,’’ Gorman said. “During the ceremony, I looked at Troy Murphy [the new Celtic who wears 30] and said, ‘You’ve got a lot of pressure on you now. You’re wearing my number.’ ’’

Gorman punctuates the anecdote with a laugh, one familiar to Celtics fans who recognize humor as an essential element of his chemistry with Heinsohn. Part of that comes from working side-by-side for three decades. Part of it comes from a friendship that supersedes basketball. And part of it, Gorman says, comes from knowing where to draw the line.

“People ask how can we get along so well for 30 years,’’ said Gorman. “Well, we work about 100 nights of the season. Which leaves another 260-something days a year when we’re not together.

“And that’s not to say we don’t stay in touch, don’t talk on the phone, don’t play golf occasionally. It’s perfect. We’re together for something that we both love, the Celtics and doing basketball.

“And all the other time where we could get into trouble if we differ politically or differ on religion or whatever, or those taboos that you don’t talk about, we never go there.’’

Gorman said there is not a particular game or moment that stands out in his mind. The reason, he says, is because the franchise’s success lends itself to countless memories.

“I was in Los Angeles the other night, and the Clippers were honoring Ralph Lawler, who’s their radio and TV play-by-play guy,’’ Gorman said. “He’s done like 2,500 Clipper games. Now think about that one. That’s never going to the playoffs, being out of it 30-40 games into the season. He must be hard-pressed to have a memory of anything.’’

To hear Gorman tell it, the Celtics’ appreciation is reciprocated and then some.

“Sometimes people might feel like I’m overstating the case, but I don’t think I am,’’ he said. “I get paid to go to the Garden, meet up with a 30-year friend, sit at halfcourt in the best seats in the place, talk about the game for 2 1/2 hours, then go home and somebody pays me.’’

Talking it over Comcast SportsNet New England and 98.5 The Sports Hub have had discussions about simulcasting the “Felger and Massarotti’’ afternoon drive program, but an industry source said an announcement is not imminent . . . The Hockey East championship game will air live tomorrow on NESNplus at 7 p.m., while the Bruins face off with the Maple Leafs at the same time on NESN. A list of NESNplus channels can be found at NESN.com . . . “The Baseball Show,’’ always a pleasant way for a Red Sox fan to begin a Saturday morning, will return to CSNNE this season. But it won’t be simulcast on WEEI, as it had been since its debut in 2009. It may end up on The Sports Hub.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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