Tony Lavelli

Last updated
Tony Lavelli
Tony Lavelli 1959.JPG
Lavelli in 1959.
Personal information
Born(1926-07-11)July 11, 1926
Somerville, Massachusetts
DiedJanuary 8, 1998(1998-01-08) (aged 71)
Laconia, New Hampshire
Listed height6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Listed weight185 lb (84 kg)
Career information
High school Somerville
(Somerville, Massachusetts)
College Yale (1945–1949)
BAA draft 1949 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4th overall
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career1949–1951
Position Small forward
Number4, 11, 6, 16
Career history
1949–1950 Boston Celtics
1950–1951 New York Knicks
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points 591 (6.9 ppg)
Rebounds 59 (2.0 rpg)
Assists 63 (0.7 apg)
Stats   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg at
Stats at

Anthony Lavelli, Jr. (July 11, 1926 – January 8, 1998) was an American professional basketball player and musician. He averaged 6.9 points per game [1] during his two-year National Basketball Association (NBA) career (1949–1951) while also providing half-time entertainment with his accordion performances.



A native of Somerville, Massachusetts, Lavelli attended Yale University as a music student and was a member of Skull and Bones. [2] :169 [3] He aspired to compose musical comedies after he graduated. [4] He wrote over a dozen songs while in college, with titles like "I Want a Helicopter" [4] and "You're the Boppiest Bee-Bop", [5] and he also appeared as an accordion soloist for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. [6] As a senior, he applied to the Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the New England Conservatory of Music. [4]

However, Lavelli's musical talents were often overshadowed by his achievements on the basketball court. Lavelli claimed that he had only learned basketball as a teenager to impress his friends, who were mostly apathetic to his music. [4] Nevertheless, he would become one of Yale's all-time greatest players. A 6'3" forward with an accurate one-handed hook shot, he scored 1,964 points in four years and graduated as the fourth highest-scorer in college basketball history. [4] He also earned four All-American team selections and one Player of the Year award during his college career. [4] Upon graduating, he was selected by the Boston Celtics as the fourth overall pick in the 1949 BAA draft. [7]

College statistics

1948–49 Yale 30.350.82422.4

Professional basketball

Despite his athletic accomplishments, Lavelli's first love was music, and he initially refused to sign with the Celtics so that he could enroll at Juilliard. [5] Eventually, however, based on suggestions made by sports executive Leo Ferris, Lavelli proposed to join the team on the condition that they would pay him an extra $125 per game to play his accordion during half-time breaks at Boston Garden and certain visitors' arenas. [8] The Celtics conceded to his demands.

Lavelli made his Celtics debut on November 24, 1949 in a game against the Fort Wayne Pistons. He tallied 20 points in his first game, [9] and would average 8.8 points per game over the course of the 1949–50 NBA season. [1] However, he received much more attention for his half-time accordion performances; indeed, some basketball historians have credited Lavelli's mini-concerts for saving the early Celtics franchise, which was in danger of folding due to lack of fans and money. [10] In a typical performance, Lavelli would greet the fans and play "Granada", "Lady of Spain", and other musical pieces before dashing off to the Celtics' locker room. [11] He usually played in his basketball jersey, as he had little time to change his clothes. [10] The Celtics unfortunately finished last in their division that season, but one newspaper joked that the team "doubtless [found] his music soothing". [12]

Lavelli signed with the rival New York Knicks prior to the start of the 1950–51 NBA season. He averaged 3.3 points per game with the Knicks and participated in their playoff run, which ended in the 1951 NBA Finals at the hands of the Rochester Royals. [13] However, Lavelli had joined the Knicks specifically so that he would be close to Juilliard, and he finally began taking courses there during his tenure with the team. [11]

During the mid-1950s, Lavelli played with the College All-Stars, who primarily served as opponents to the Harlem Globetrotters, and his accordion performances became a fixture of the Globetrotters’ halftime shows. [11]

Post-basketball career

After retiring from basketball in the late 1950s, Lavelli embarked on a long career as a songwriter and nightclub performer. [11] He released two records during his life: All-American Accordionist and Accordion Classics. [14] In 1998, he suffered a heart attack at his home in Laconia, New Hampshire and died shortly afterwards. [11]


NBA career statistics

  GPGames played MPG Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game APG  Assists per game
 PPG Points per game Bold Career high

Regular season

1949–50 Boston 56.372.8530.78.8
1950–51 New York 30.344.8542.00.83.3


1951 New York 2.2001.0000.50.52.0


  1. 1 2 "Tony Lavelli". Archived from the original on 2015-10-30. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  2. Robbins, Alexandra (2002). Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power . Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN   0-316-72091-7.
  3. Porter, David L. (2005). Basketball: a biographical dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 275. ISBN   9780313309526 . Retrieved April 8, 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Baskets in 4/4 Time". Time . March 14, 1949.[ dead link ]
  5. 1 2 "Lavelli of Yale passes up pro basketball for music career". New York Times : 18. April 16, 1949.
  6. "Tony Lavelli solos with New Haven Symphony". Accordion World. 1949. Archived from the original on 2015-10-30. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  7. "1949 BAA Draft". The Official NBA Encyclopedia. New York: Doubleday. 2000. p. 368.
  8. Burwell, Brian (2001). At the Buzzer!. New York: Doubleday. p. 145.
  9. "Celtics bow, Lavelli gets 20". New York Times: 34. November 25, 1949.
  10. 1 2 Cavanaugh, Jack (April 16, 1995). "The last days of a garden where memories grew". New York Times: S7.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Goldstein, Richard (January 13, 1998). "Tony Lavelli, 71, musician with a memorable hook shot" . New York Times: D21. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  12. "Tony from Yale likes accordion, cage combination; halftime 'concerts' prove biggest success". The Charleston Gazette. November 28, 1949.
  13. "Royals Reign, Despite Knicks Unlikely Comeback". . Archived from the original on 2015-10-14. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  14. "Tony Lavelli". Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  15. "Tony Lavelli". IMDb. Archived from the original on 2015-10-30. Retrieved September 18, 2015.

Related Research Articles

Wilt Chamberlain American basketball and volleyball player

Wilton Norman Chamberlain was an American professional basketball player who played as a center, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the sport's history. He played for the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played for the University of Kansas and for the Harlem Globetrotters before playing in the NBA. Chamberlain stood 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall, and weighed 250 pounds (110 kg) as a rookie before gaining up to 275 pounds (125 kg) and later to over 300 pounds (140 kg) with the Lakers.

George Mikan American basketball player, coach, commissioner

George Lawrence Mikan Jr., nicknamed "Mr. Basketball", was an American professional basketball player for the Chicago American Gears of the National Basketball League (NBL) and the Minneapolis Lakers of the NBL, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Invariably playing with thick, round spectacles, the 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m), 245 lb (111 kg) Mikan is seen as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, as well as one of the pioneers of professional basketball, redefining it as a game of so-called big men with his prolific rebounding, shot blocking, and his talent to shoot over smaller defenders with his ambidextrous hook shot, the result of the eponymous Mikan Drill. He also utilized the underhanded free-throw shooting technique long before Rick Barry made it his signature shot.

Dolph Schayes American basketball player and coach

Adolph Schayes was an American professional basketball player and coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA). A top scorer and rebounder, he was a 12-time NBA All-Star and a 12-time All-NBA selection. Schayes won an NBA championship with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955. He was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Sheboygan Red Skins was a professional basketball team based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which was an original National Basketball Association franchise during the 1949–1950 season.

NBA Finals Championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA)

The NBA Finals is the annual championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Eastern and Western conference champions play a best-of-seven game series to determine the league champion. The team that wins the series is awarded the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, which replaced the Walter A. Brown Trophy in 1983.

Chuck Cooper (basketball) American basketball player

Charles Henry Cooper was an American professional basketball player. He and two others, Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton and Earl Lloyd, became the first African-American players in the NBA in 1950. Cooper was also the first African American to be drafted by a National Basketball Association (NBA) team, as the first pick of the second round by the Boston Celtics. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 9, 2019.

Harry Gallatin

Harry Junior "The Horse" Gallatin was an American professional basketball player and coach. Gallatin played nine seasons for the New York Knicks in the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1948 to 1957, as well as one season with the Detroit Pistons in the 1957–58 season. Gallatin led the NBA in rebounding and was named to the All-NBA First Team in 1954. The following year, he was named to the All-NBA Second Team. For his career, Gallatin played in seven NBA All-Star Games. A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, he is also a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, the SIU Edwardsville Athletics Hall of Fame, the Truman State University Athletics Hall of Fame, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, two Illinois Basketball Halls of Fame, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) Hall of Fame, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame, and the SIU Salukis Hall of Fame.

Willem Hendrik "Butch" van Breda Kolff was an American basketball player and coach.

Nathaniel Clifton American basketball player and coach

Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton was an American professional basketball and baseball player. He is best known as one of the first African Americans to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Ossie Schectman

Oscar Benjamin "Ossie" Schectman was an American professional basketball player. He is credited with having scored the first basket in the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which would later become the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Eddie Gottlieb Ukrainian-American basketball coach

Edward Gottlieb was a Ukrainian professional basketball coach and executive. Nicknamed "Mr. Basketball" and "The Mogul", he was the first coach and manager of the Philadelphia Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and later became the owner of the team from 1951 to 1962. A native of Kiev, Ukraine, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor on April 20, 1972. The NBA Rookie of the Year Award, the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy, is named after him.

The 1951 NBA World Championship Series was the championship round of the 1951 NBA Playoffs, which concluded the National Basketball Association 1950–51 season. The Western Division champion Rochester Royals faced the Eastern Division champion New York Knicks in a best-of-seven series with Rochester having home-court advantage.

The 1951 NBA playoffs was the postseason tournament of the National Basketball Association 1950–51 season. The tournament concluded with the Western Division champion Rochester Royals defeating the Eastern Division champion New York Knicks 4 games to 3 in the NBA Finals.

Connie Simmons American basketball player

Cornelius Leo "Connie" Simmons was an American professional basketball player. He was born in Newark, New Jersey.

Stanley Stutz was an American professional basketball player.

Knicks–Pacers rivalry National Basketball Association rivalry

The Knicks–Pacers rivalry is a basketball rivalry between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball League (NBA). The rivalry started in 1977 and quickly became one of the most bitter in NBA history. They met in the playoffs 6 times from 1993–2000, fueling a rivalry epitomized by the enmity between Pacer Reggie Miller and prominent Knick fan Spike Lee. Miller likened it to the Hatfield–McCoy feud, and The New York Times said in 1998 that it was "as combustible as any in the league".

George A. Kaftan was an American professional basketball player.

Bob Hahn American basketball player

Robert M. Hahn was a professional basketball player who spent one season in the National Basketball Association as a member of the Chicago Stags during the 1949–50 season. He attended North Carolina State University.

The 1948 Globetrotters–Lakers game was a dramatic match-up between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Minneapolis Lakers. Played in Chicago Stadium, the game took place two years before professional basketball was desegregated. The Globetrotters' 61–59 victory – by two points at the buzzer – challenged prevailing racial stereotypes about the abilities of black athletes.