John Havlicek died yesterday. He was 79 years old.
I don’t think they will miss his passing in Boston where he was one of the great Celtics along with Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Tommy Heinsohn, K. C. Jones, etc. Havlicek played all of his career in Boston. Bob Cousy inflamed Boston’s love affair with its Celtics and Bill Russell masterfully defined it. Havlicek was its heartbeat.
Havlicek’s Celtics took home 8 NBA titles during his time with the team. He was played in 13 NBA All-Star games. Remarkably, his 26,395 points makes him the Celtics biggest career scorer.
Havlicek played from 1962 to 1978. “Hondo” as he was called, played in 1270 games averaging 20.8 points per game. He averaged 6.3 rebounds per game and had 8077 career rebounds. His field goal percentage was 43.9 and his free throw percentage was 81.5.
Havlicek’s parents were Czechoslovakian immigrants and he grew up Martins Ferry, Ohio along just across the Ohio River from Wheeling West Virginia. Havlicek was an all-around athlete. He played tirelessly all his 16 seasons for the Boston Celtics. He played guard and small forward.
In the 1965 Eastern Conference finals, Havlicek intercepted a Philadelphia 76ers pass at the end of the game to seal the victory. This performance is becoming the “elevator speech” on Havlicek’s career. But like all elevator speeches, it does not do the subject justice.
It’s better to see an athletes performance on the “playing field” to best understand his or her contribution. Those who watched Havlicek play on TV or in person have a much better understanding of his contribution to the Celtics and the game.
In Havlicek’s time, he was more than anything else relentless. He just kept going and going. He was all about hustle. He was also fearless. You could watch the Celtics play and they always had the right mix of defense and offense to win so many times. And year after year after year, the Celtics were back at it and Havlicek was always there.