Havlicek stole the ball
|Game won by a steal of an inbounds pass by John Havlicek|
|Date||April 15, 1965|
|Venue||Boston Garden, Boston, Massachusetts|
"Havlicek stole the ball" is the name of a memorable play by the Boston Celtics' John Havlicek against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1965 NBA Eastern Conference championship. The name frequently refers to the call of the play by Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most, dubbed by the NBA as "the most famous radio call in basketball history."
Havlicek was in his fourth year with the Celtics, but had already won two championships with the team under coach Red Auerbach. In a run that would span 11 championships with center Bill Russell as the focus of a lineup of future Hall of Famers, Havlicek was considered the "guts of the team" by Auerbach.
To repeat after the previous six consecutive championships, the Celtics would have to go through the 76ers, who had just traded for center Wilt Chamberlain. The 76ers beat the Cincinnati Royals to advance to the conference finals against the top-seeded Celtics. The two teams alteranted victories on their home courts to knot the series at 3-3.
The final game was held at the Boston Garden on April 15. Boston had an 11-point lead in the waning minutes, including 26 from Havlicek. But then Chamberlain scored 10 consecutive points to bring the game to 110-109 with five seconds to go. Russell inbounded the ball, but hit a guy wire holding up the basket. The resulting turnover gave the ball to Philadelphia.
Philadelphia put the ball in the hands of guard Hal Greer. Russell blocked Chamberlain from receiving the inbounds, leaving Greer's best target as forward Chet Walker. Greer had five seconds to inbound the ball, which Havlicek counted down to four and then broke toward Walker. Havlicek caught and deflected the ball to teammate Sam Jones, who dribbled out the rest of regulation, winning the Celtics the Eastern Conference championship en route to their seventh straight NBA championship.
The play was accompanied by the breathless call of Most:
Greer is putting the ball into play. He gets it out deep. Havlicek steals it. Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!
The steal is marked as one of the greatest moments in NBA history. Sports Illustrated ranked it as the #61 moment in all of sports. The New England Historical Society dubbed it the greatest broadcast moment in basketball history.
Havlicek went on to become the Celtics' all-time leading scorer with 26,395 points in a Celtics record 1,270 games played. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984.
- ""Havlicek Stole the Ball!"". NBA.com. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
- "John J. Havlicek". The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
- White Jr., Gordon S. (1965-04-15). "'Havlicek Stole the Ball!'". Retrieved 2019-01-17.
- ""Havlicek Stole the Ball"". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
- "'Havlicek Stole the Ball!': The Greatest Broadcast Moment in Basketball History". New England Historical Society. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
- "Celtics Hall of Famers". Retrieved 2019-01-17.