Hall of Fame center Arnie Risen died Saturday morning in Beachwood, Ohio. He was 87 years old. Risen had suffered from lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. His lung cancer had been in remission.
He is mostly a forgotten figure to most Celtics fans today, but in the early fifties, he was a very recognizable player to NBA fans of that generation. He played 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Jets of the NBL, The Rochester Royals, and the Boston Celtics. He was a 6'9" very wiry and agile pivotman who was a thorn in the side of contemporaries like George Mikan,Alex Groza and Larry Foust. Including his years in the NBL, he scored over 9,000 points in his career and pulled down 5,000 rebounds in his later years in the NBA. They didn't record rebounds during his first 5 pro seasons.
Arnie Risen played for the Celtics from 1955 through 1958. In his first season with the Celtics, his scoring average dipped below double figures for the first time in 11 pro seasons. But Risen played a very crucial role for the Celtics that year. In the early weeks of the season, Risen held down the middle along with Jack Nichols and a talented rookie named Tom Heinsohn while they waited for their other prize rookie, Bill Russel, to return from winning an Olympic Gold Medal. It was that same year that Risen won his second NBA Championship ring. The first was earned with Rochester in 1951. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.
Arnie Risen, right, speaks with Bill Russell during at a ceremony on April 13, 2007 that honored the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Boston Celtics winning the NBA championship. / By Jesse D. Garrabrant, NBAE/Getty Images