John Havlicek

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John Havlicek
Havlicek in the 1960s
Personal information
Born(1940-04-08)April 8, 1940
Martins Ferry, Ohio, U.S.
DiedApril 25, 2019(2019-04-25) (aged 79)
Jupiter, Florida, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Listed weight203 lb (92 kg)
Career information
High schoolBridgeport (Bridgeport, Ohio)
CollegeOhio State (1959–1962)
NBA draft1962: 1st round, 7th overall pick
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career1962–1978
PositionSmall forward / shooting guard
Career history
19621978Boston Celtics
Career highlights and awards
Career statistics
Points26,395 (20.8 ppg)
Rebounds8,007 (6.3 rpg)
Assists6,114 (4.8 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

John Joseph Havlicek (/ˈhævlɪɛk/ HAV-lih-chek; April 8, 1940 – April 25, 2019)[1] was an American professional basketball player who spent his entire career with the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

A swingman, Havlicek played collegiate basketball for the Ohio State Buckeyes from 1959 to 1962, winning an NCAA championship in 1960. He was drafted by the Celtics in 1962 and played with the team until his retirement in 1978. A 13-time NBA All-Star, Havlicek was named to the All-NBA First Team four times and to the All-NBA Second Team four times. He was also named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team on five occasions and to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team three times. Havlicek is known for his stamina and his hustle as well as his abilities.

During his career with the Celtics, Havlicek won eight NBA championships. He is known for stealing the ball to save the game--and the Celtics' playoff hopes--near the end of Game Seven in the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals. Havlicek served as captain of the Celtics from 1969 to 1978, and was named NBA Finals MVP in 1974. Following his retirement, his number 17 jersey was retired by the Celtics. Havlicek was inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984.

Early life[edit]

Havlicek was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, where his parents ran a general store.[2] He was of Czech and Croatian descent, from his father and mother respectively.[3] Havlicek was a three-sport athlete at Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, Ohio, where he was a boyhood friend of Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.[4]

Collegiate career[edit]

Havlicek played college basketball at Ohio State University with future seven-time NBA All-Star Jerry Lucas, who was his roommate, future first-round NBA draft pick Larry Siegfried, future coaching legend Bobby Knight, and Mel Nowell, among many others. The 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes, coached by head coach Fred Taylor and assistant coaches Jack Graf and Frank Truitt, won the 1960 NCAA title.[citation needed] Havlicek was named as an alternate of the 1960 United States national team that competed in the 1960 Summer Olympics.[5]

Professional career[edit]

Boston Celtics (1962–1978)[edit]

Havlicek was drafted by both the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League in 1962. After competing briefly as a wide receiver in the Browns' training camp that year, he focused his energies on playing for the Celtics. A swingman who could play either guard or forward,[6][7][8] he was known for his stamina, with competitors stating that it was a challenge just to keep up with him.[9] Head coach Red Auerbach went on to call him "the guts of the team".[10] Nicknamed "Hondo" (a nickname inspired by the 1953 movie of the same name starring John Wayne),[2] Havlicek revolutionized the "sixth man" role in the NBA coming off the bench for the Celtics during his early years.[11][12][13]

Havlicek was later immortalized for his clutch steal in the closing seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals. In the seventh and final game, played at Boston Garden on April 15, the Celtics led the Philadelphia 76ers 110–109 with five seconds left. They only needed to inbound the ball from underneath their basket to secure the victory and advance to the 1965 NBA Finals. However, Bill Russell's pass struck one of the basket's support wires hanging down from the ceiling, leading to a turnover that gave the 76ers and Wilt Chamberlain the ball and a chance to win the game.[2] Hal Greer was set to throw the inbounds pass for the 76ers. Havlicek stood with his back to Greer, guarding Chet Walker. But as Greer's pass came inbounds, Havlicek spun, leaped, and tipped the pass to Sam Jones.[2] Veteran referee Earl Strom, who wrote about the game in his memoir Calling the Shots, called Havlicek's reaction one of the greatest plays he ever saw in his 32 years as a professional official.[14] Announcer Johnny Most's call of "Havlicek stole the ball!" was dubbed by the NBA as "the most famous radio call in basketball history."[15]

Havlicek was a key player in the Celtics' dynasty during the 1960s.[16] The team won NBA championships in six of his first seven NBA seasons.[17]

In Game 5 of the 1968 Eastern Division Finals, Havlicek recorded a near triple-double with 29 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists as the Celtics avoided elimination at the hands of the 76ers.[18] He added a strong performance in Game Seven, recording 21 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists in a 100–96 road win against the 76ers. In that series, the Celtics became the first NBA team to overcome a 3–1 playoff series deficit.[19]

Havlicek became a full-time starter in the 1969-1970 season.[20] He also became the Celtics' captain in 1969, and continued in that role until 1978.[21] Havlicek "stood as the bridge from the Bill Russell era to the Celtics' next championship team".[22] The Celtics won the 1974 NBA Championship, and Havlicek was named NBA Finals MVP.[23]

With one second left in the second overtime of Game Five of the 1976 NBA Finals, Havlicek made a leaning, running bank shot that appeared to be the game-winner. Phoenix called an illegal timeout, resulting in a technical foul shot converted by Jo Jo White. However, Phoenix still had one final possession, and Gar Heard scored for Phoenix to tie the game. The Celtics went on to win in triple overtime. The game was hailed as the greatest NBA Finals game ever played.[24]

Havlicek retired after the 1977–78 NBA season at age 38.[1] In April 1978, The Sporting News stated: "The consensus is that Havlicek is still better than 80 percent of the players in the NBA".[25]


"'On stamina alone, he’d be among the top players who ever played the game,' longtime New York Knicks coach Red Holzman once said of John “Hondo” Havlicek. "'It would’ve been fair to those who had to play him or those who had to coach against him if he had been blessed only with his inhuman endurance. God had to compound it by making him a good scorer, smart ballhandler and intelligent defensive player with quickness of mind, hands and feet'".[23]

Havlicek retired as a 13-time NBA All-Star, and his number 17 jersey was retired by the Celtics.[26] At the time, Havlicek was the NBA career leader in games played (a mark surpassed in 1984 by Elvin Hayes)[27] and was in third place on the list of all-time NBA leaders in points scored.[28] Longtime Celtics teammate Bill Russell once described Havlicek as "'the best all-around ballplayer [he] ever saw'".[29] At the time of his death, Havlicek was the Celtics' all-time leading scorer with 26,395 points (20.8 points per game).[30][31] He was also the first player to score 1,000 points in 16 consecutive seasons, with his best scoring season coming during the 1970–71 season, when he averaged 28.9 points per game.[32] He was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team five times and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team three times.[33]

Havlicek finished his 16-year career with eight NBA championships.[9][23] As of 2019, only Bill Russell (with 11) and Sam Jones (with 10)--both of whom were Celtics teammates of Havlicek's--had won more NBA championships than he had.[34] Havlicek won all eight NBA Finals in which he participated.[35]

In 1980, Havlicek was selected as one of the league's greatest players ever, being named to the NBA 35th Anniversary Team.[36] In 1984, Havlicek became a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.[10] In 1996, he was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History by a panel of journalists, players, coaches, executives, and general managers.[37] He was also named the 14th best player of all-time in Bill Simmons's Book of Basketball.[38] In October 2021, Havlicek was again honored as one of the league's greatest players of all time by being named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.[39] To commemorate the NBA's 75th Anniversary, The Athletic published their own list of the top 75 players of all time, ranking Havlicek as the 29th-greatest player in NBA history.[22]

In 1974, Havlicek received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[40] In 2007, Bridgeport High School in his hometown renamed their gymnasium "John J. Havlicek Gymnasium".[41] Fellow NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin wore number 17 as a tribute to Havlicek.[42] In October 2022, Havlicek was inaugurated into the Croatian-American Sports Hall of Fame.[43]In December 2022, the NBA named the newly redesigned trophy presented to the NBA Sixth Man of the Year the “John Havlicek Trophy” in his honor. [44]

In addition to his on-court success, Havlicek was known for his character[45][46] and for his commitment to placing the team ahead of his own individual achievements.[47] Longtime Celtics coach Red Auerbach once said, "'If I ever had a son, I would want him to be like John Havlicek'".[46]

Post-playing career[edit]

Havlicek was shrewd with his money during his playing career, and he invested much of this income in the Wendy's fast food chain during its formative years. The success of his investments left Havlicek with a comfortable income after retirement and he never had to work for a conventional salary again. He had no desire to coach; instead, he served as a corporate speaker.[1]

Havlicek was a member of the board of the Genesis Foundation, which assists children with disabilities and genetic disorders. He and his wife Beth held the John Havlicek Celebrity Fishing Tournament for more than three decades, with proceeds going to the foundation.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Havlicek met his wife, Beth, while both were attending Ohio State University. The couple married in 1967. They had two children: a son named Chris and a daughter named Jill.[2] Chris Havlicek attended the University of Virginia on a basketball scholarship in the early 1990s.[48] Jill Havlicek married former Major League Baseball outfielder and coach Brian Buchanan.[49]

Havlicek had Parkinson's disease during his later years.[50] He died on April 25, 2019, in Jupiter, Florida at the age of 79.[1][51][52] Following his death, Boston City Hall was lit in green in his memory.[45]

NBA career statistics[edit]

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 †  Won an NBA championship  *  Led the league

Regular season[edit]

1962–63 Boston 80* 27.5 .445 .728 6.7 2.2 14.3
1963–64 Boston 80 32.3 .417 .746 5.4 3.0 19.9
1964–65 Boston 75 28.9 .401 .744 4.9 2.7 18.3
1965–66 Boston 71 30.6 .399 .785 6.0 3.0 18.8
1966–67 Boston 81* 32.1 .444 .828 6.6 3.4 21.4
1967–68 Boston 82 35.6 .429 .812 6.7 4.7 20.7
1968–69 Boston 82 38.7 .405 .780 7.0 5.4 21.6
1969–70 Boston 81 41.6 .464 .844 7.8 6.8 24.2
1970–71 Boston 81 45.4* .450 .818 9.0 7.5 28.9
1971–72 Boston 82 45.1* .458 .834 8.2 7.5 27.5
1972–73 Boston 80 42.1 .450 .858 7.1 6.6 23.8
1973–74 Boston 76 40.7 .456 .832 6.4 5.9 1.3 .4 22.6
1974–75 Boston 82 38.2 .455 .870 5.9 5.3 1.3 .2 19.2
1975–76 Boston 76 34.2 .450 .844 4.1 3.7 1.3 .4 17.0
1976–77 Boston 79 36.9 .452 .816 4.8 5.1 1.1 .2 17.7
1977–78 Boston 82 34.1 .449 .855 4.0 4.0 1.1 .3 16.1
Career [32] 1,270 36.6 .439 .815 6.3 4.8 1.2 .3 20.8
All-Star[32] 13 10 23.3 .481 .756 3.5 2.6 .3 .0 13.8


1963 Boston 11 23.1 .448 .667 4.8 1.5 11.8
1964 Boston 10 28.9 .384 .795 4.3 3.2 15.7
1965 Boston 12 33.8 .352 .836 7.3 2.4 18.5
1966 Boston 17 42.3 .409 .841 9.1 4.1 23.6
1967 Boston 9 36.7 .448 .803 8.1 3.1 27.4
1968 Boston 19 45.4 .452 .828 8.6 7.5 25.9
1969 Boston 18 47.2 .445 .855 9.9 5.6 25.4
1972 Boston 11 47.0 .460 .859 8.4 6.4 27.4
1973 Boston 12 39.9 .477 .824 5.2 5.4 23.8
1974 Boston 18 45.1 .484 .881 6.4 6.0 1.3 .3 27.1
1975 Boston 11 42.2 .432 .868 5.2 4.6 1.5 .1 21.1
1976 Boston 15 33.7 .444 .809 3.7 3.4 .8 .3 13.2
1977 Boston 9 41.7 .371 .820 5.4 6.9 .9 .4 18.3
Career[32] 172 39.9 .436 .836 6.9 4.8 1.1 .3 22.0

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Powers, John (April 25, 2019), "John Havlicek, one of the greatest Celtics ever, dies at 79", Boston Globe
  2. ^ a b c d e Araton, Harvey (April 25, 2019). "John Havlicek, a Dynamo in Two Eras of Celtics Glory, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  3. ^ Petraglia, Mike (April 25, 2019). "Celtics Legend John Havlicek Dies at Age of 79". CLNS Media. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  4. ^ Jeff Twiss. "Where Are They Now? – John Havlicek". NBA.
  5. ^ "Basketball at the 1960 Roma Summer Games". Archived from the original on October 25, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
  6. ^ Draper, Alan (January 29, 2018). "The Retired Numbers Project: Number 17 – John Havlicek". The Sports Daily.
  7. ^ "What Is A Swingman In Basketball? Definition & Meaning On SportsLingo".
  8. ^ Orsborn, Tom (April 28, 2019). "Popovich mourns death of his 'idol' John Havlicek". mySA.
  9. ^ a b Johnson, Alex (April 26, 2019). "John Havlicek, Celtics legend who 'stole the ball!' dies at 79". Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  10. ^ a b "John Havlicek". Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  11. ^ Cornelissen, Josh (November 8, 2018). "The greatest sixth man from each NBA team".
  12. ^ Reynolds, Bill (April 27, 2019). "Bill Reynolds: Havlicek defined role of 'sixth man'".
  13. ^ "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame : John Havlicek".
  14. ^ Earl Strom; et al. (Blaine Johnson) (1990). Calling the Shots: My Five Decades in the NBA. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  15. ^ "Havlicek Stole the Ball!". Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  16. ^ Araton, Harvey (November 3, 2006). "Auerbach Seen Through the Smoke". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Hightower, Kyle (April 26, 2019). "John Havlicek: A man in constant motion". The Ledger.
  18. ^ "Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers Box Score, April 15, 1968". Basketball-Reference. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
  19. ^ "Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers Box Score, April 19, 1968". Basketball-Reference. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
  20. ^ Hughes, Grant (June 1, 2020). "8 NBA Stars Who Made Coming off the Bench Cool". Bleacher Report.
  21. ^ "Leadership". Boston Celtics History.
  22. ^ a b King, Jay. "NBA 75: At No. 29, John Havlicek's endless energy and versatility made him a Celtics great and Hall of Famer". The Athletic.
  23. ^ a b c "Legends profile: John Havlicek". Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  24. ^ AJ Foss (June 3, 2011). "35 Years Ago: The Celtics and the Suns Play The Greatest NBA Finals Game Ever Played". Boston Sports Then & Now. Archived from the original on January 13, 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  25. ^ "NBA 75: Celtics legend John Havlicek, 38, retires in style (TSN Archives)". December 20, 2021.
  26. ^ McCallister, Doreen (April 26, 2019). "Boston Celtics Great And Hall Of Famer John Havlicek Dies At 79". NPR. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  27. ^ Goldaper, Sam (February 12, 1984). "Hayes Enjoying Farewell Season". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 17, 2018.
  28. ^ "John Havlicek". Retrieved August 7, 2023.
  29. ^ a b Zillgitt, Jeff. "John Havlicek, Hall of Famer and Celtics legend, dies at 79". USA Today.
  30. ^ Rollins, Khadrice (April 25, 2019). "Celtics Legend, Eight-Time NBA Champion John Havlicek Dies at 79". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  31. ^ Blakely, A. Sherrod (April 26, 2019). "Celtics legend John Havlicek, a mainstay of '60s and '70s champions, dies at 79".
  32. ^ a b c d "John Havlicek". Sports Reference. Archived from the original on May 12, 2013. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  33. ^ "Year-by-year NBA All-Defensive Teams". Retrieved August 7, 2023.
  34. ^ "NBA Finals: Players With Five or More Titles". NBA. Archived from the original on April 27, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  35. ^ Berkman, Seth (June 19, 2016), "N.B.A. Finals Legend or Loser? Luck Is Often the Difference", The New York Times
  36. ^ "NBA 35th Anniversary All-Time Team |". Archived from the original on May 15, 2021. Retrieved December 24, 2021.
  37. ^ "NBA History: The NBA's 50 Greatest Players". Archived from the original on June 4, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  38. ^ Simmons, Bill (2010). The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-52010-4.
  39. ^ "NBA 75th Anniversary Team announced". October 21, 2021.
  40. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  41. ^ "John J. Havlicek Gymnasium". Bridgeport School District.
  42. ^ "Legends profile: Chris Mullin". March 3, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2014.
  43. ^ "Inaugural Croatian-American Sports Hall of Fame induction held". October 18, 2022.
  44. ^ "NBA unveils the Michael Jordan Trophy to be awarded to the KIA NBA Most Valuable Player". NBA Communications. December 13, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  45. ^ a b "Fans, Players Mourn Boston Celtics Legend John Havlicek - CBS Boston". April 26, 2019.
  46. ^ a b Staskey, Seth (August 18, 2019). "Havlicek lived his life the right way".
  47. ^ Polacek, Scott. "Celtics Legend, Basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek Dies at Age 79". Bleacher Report.
  48. ^ Johnson, Dave (February 26, 1994). "Dad's Legacy Shadows Havlicek". Daily Press. Archived from the original on December 17, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  49. ^ Flanagan, Jeffrey (January 12, 2017). "Q&A: Get to know assistant hitting coach Buchanan".
  50. ^ Lott, Thomas (April 25, 2019). "Celtics Hall of Famer John Havlicek dies at 79". Sporting News.
  51. ^ Jason Owens (April 25, 2019). "NBA Legend John Havlicek Dies at 79". Yahoo Sports.
  52. ^ Mark Murphy (April 25, 2019). "John Havlicek, Celtics great, dies at 79". Boston Herald.

External links[edit]