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The Boston Celtics Hit With Some Tough News Ahead of Game 6 Against the Atlanta Hawks

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Paul Pierce gets pre-broadcast advice from Heather Walker, Celtics senior director of public relations.

The Boston Celtics suffered one of their toughest losses Tuesday night when they dropped a 119-117 decision to the shorthanded Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs. A victory would have clinched the series and sent them to the conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Instead, it’s back to Atlanta on Thursday for a critical Game 6.

On Wednesday, the Celtics suffered another tough loss. This one was much more difficult and came off the court.

The Boston Celtics hit hard by the death of Heather Walker, VP of Public Relations

The Boston Celtics Hit With Some Tough News Ahead of Game 6 Against the Atlanta Hawks
Paul Pierce gets pre-broadcast advice from Heather Walker, Celtics senior director of public relations, before the game. The Boston Celtics hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers for Game 7 of their NBA Eastern Conference Finals playoff series at TD Garden in Boston on May 27, 2018. | Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

On Wednesday, the Boston Celtics lost a beloved member of the family when Heather Walker died after a two-year fight with brain cancer. She was 51.

Walker was the team’s Vice President of Public Relations and had been with the organization since 2006. She was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2021. The announcement of her death was made on the Move4Heather Facebook page.

“These posts have never been easy, and this will be the hardest ever,” the post read. “Heather has let go and passed this morning at 5:43am. She isn’t fighting anymore and can finally rest. She is with so many who have gone before her that I’m sure she was welcomed with open arms.”

The Celtics issued a statement via social media and changed their profile picture to an HW logo inside a pink heart.

“Heather Walker was a boundlessly charismatic, giving, and selfless soul,” the statement read in part. “Every room she entered was brighter for her presence. As anyone who knew her could attest, her abundant positive energy and kindness should not be mistaken for any lack of fortitude or determination when such qualities were required. She thrived in chaos, always able to recognize the humor that the adventures of her life brought her.

“Each of these attributes were on display through the best days of her life, and remained intact, sharpened even, when she encountered her cruel diagnosis.

“Displaying exceptional courage, she made a point of raising awareness for glioblastoma through the Move4Heather movement. wanting to use her situation to help the lives of others, which was entirely consistent with her character.”

“Through her illness, she was resolute and extraordinary in boosting the spirits of those around her and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and essential awareness in hopes of easing the suffering and saving the lives of others.”

Walker’s death hit home in the Boston area

Walker certainly made an impact well beyond the Celtics. According to Boston.com, she worked with The Jimmy Fund to start her Move 4 Heather Challenge. She asked participants to cross something off their “bucket list,” share it on social media, and make a donation to The Heather Walker Fund. The fund helped raise more than $640,000 and helped support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“We join the New England community in mourning the passing of Heather Walker,” the New England Patriots tweeted. “Our thoughts are with Heather’s family, friends and the entire @celtics organization during this difficult time.”

Walker was a friend to many. I had the pleasure of working with her occasionally when I was sports editor of The Herald News in Fall River, Massachusetts. Whenever the Celtics were putting on an event in the Fall River community, I’d hear from her. She was always so gracious in helping coordinate our coverage.

Plenty of other media members had much to say about Walker.

“This is so sad,” tweeted NBC 10’s Joe Kayata. “Heather has been so nice to be during my 18 years covering the Celtics. When I first arrived she always made sure I got the information first on any Ryan Gomes public appearances. Thoughts and prayers to her family. May she rest in peace!”

“Today is a devastating day for everyone in the Celtics community,” Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweeted. “Heather Walker brought a warmth and energy to every room she walked into and we were so lucky to have her in our lives. I’ll always cherish every sarcastic joke, every belly laugh with Heather and miss her dearly.”