In Sports, Yale on February 6, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Tony Lavelli ’49 was the Boston Celtics’ first pick in the 1949 NBA draft.  He agreed to sign up on one condition.  What was it? 

  1. He could perform on his accordion at half-time
  2. His wife could accompany him on the road
  3. He could get a free car
  4. His parents could have prime seats to Celtics games during their lifetime



Tony Lavelli only signed up after he got an extra $125 per game to play his accordion during half-time.  While a music major at Yale, he wrote over a dozen songs with titles like “I Want a Helicopter” and “You’re the Boppiest Bee-Bop.”   He applied to music schools when he was a senior, but ultimately succumbed to the lure of the NBA.  Celtic fans remember him best for his half-time accordion performances, which provided an extra draw for the team during tough times.  Lavelli switched to the NY Knicks for the 1950-51 season so he could taking classes at Juilliard in his spare time.  In the mid-1950s, he played—basketball and accordion—with the College All Stars, travelling fall-guys for the Harlem Globe Trotters.  After retiring from basketball, Lavelli continued to write songs and entertained in clubs and theaters.  But he is best remembered for those halftime shows.  Walt Budko remembers playing against Lavelli while at Columbia and as a member of the Baltimore Bullets.  He told the New York Times:  ”I can just see him playing ‘Granada’ at halftime.” 

Photo courtesy www.hoopedia.nba.com


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