BOSTON – John Havlicek, a Hall of Fame guard who won eight championships with the Boston Celtics, died Thursday at age 79. He also was part of the 1960 Ohio State team that won the NCAA championship.
Havlicek remains the Celtics’ all-time leader in games played (1,270) and points (26,395).
“It is with deep sadness that I, along with our son Chris, daughter Jill, and seven grandchildren, announce the passing of our beloved husband, father and grandfather, John Havlicek,” said his wife, Beth, in a statement issued by the NBA club.
“John was a proud man of integrity, moral character, and kindness, and was the Captain of our team,” added Beth Havlicek.
“The entire Havlicek Family thanks you for your compassion during his valiant battle with Parkinson’s Disease. We would also like to thank the many dear friends and fans for the immeasurable support, respect and love they continue to give to Number 17.”
The Celtics issued a statement that read, in part, “John Havlicek is one of the most accomplished players in Boston Celtics history, and the face of many of the franchise’s signature moments. He was a great champion both on the court and in the community. … His defining traits as a player were his relentless hustle and wholehearted commitment to team over self. …
“He was a champion in every sense, and as we join his family, friends, and fans in mourning his loss, we are thankful for all the joy and inspiration he brought to us.”
The Celtics selected Havlicek in the first round of the 1962 draft (seventh overall), and he helped lead them to NBA championships in each of his first four seasons and six of his first seven.
The legendary Boston team of the 1960s also featured Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn and Satch Sanders.
Havlicek’s play at the end of Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals produced one of basketball’s most famous radio calls. He tipped away an inbounds pass in the final seconds, sealing a win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Gravel-voiced Celtics announcer Johnny Most bellowed, “Havlicek steals it. Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!”
Havlicek bridged eras to the next two Celtics championships, in 1974 and 1976, with those teams also featuring Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White and Don Nelson. Havlicek was selected the Most Valuable Player of the 1974 NBA Finals.
In 16 NBA seasons, all with the Celtics, Havlicek averaged 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists. He was a 13-time All-Star, an 11-time All-NBA performer and an eight-time All-Defensive Team honoree.
Havlicek was honored as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history when the league released the list to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 1996.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement that read, in part, “John Havlicek was a wonderful friend who represented the best of the NBA. He described himself as a man of routine and discipline — a humble approach that produced extraordinary results, including eight NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, 13 All-Star selections and some of the most iconic moments in league history.
“A trusted teammate who prioritized winning, John’s passion and energy endeared him to basketball fans and made him a model for generations of NBA players.”
Recognizing Havlicek’s high place within the basketball community and the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame itself, the head of the Hall issued this statement:
“The Basketball Hall of Fame family deeply mourns the loss and celebrates the life of John Havlicek,” said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame. “John was an incredible man, with a unique balance of modesty and competitive spirit. He was certainly a fan favorite in Boston and will be deeply missed in the basketball community.”
Havlicek popularized the integral role of the sixth man and is regarded as one of the best in NBA history. Modest and soft-spoken, he was a collegiate star at Ohio State, named an All-America and All-Big Ten selection in 1962. “Hondo” teamed with Larry Siegfried and fellow Hall of Famers Jerry Lucas and Bob Knight to land Ohio State in the 1960 NCAA championship. Havlicek established a style of constant movement on offense and defense that frustrated opponents and led him to a very successful professional career with the Boston Celtics. He was a 13-time NBA All-Star and eight-time NBA Champion, described by coach Red Auerbach as the “guts of the Boston Celtics.”
But, with all the sadness and the outpouring of respect and admiration, former New York Knicks forward, former U.S. Presidential candidate and former United States Senator representing New Jersey Bill Bradley said it best with a statement that read as follows:
“For ten years, John Havlicek was my toughest opponent in one of the biggest rivalries in the league,” noted Bradley. “Night after night, he was the epitome of constant motion. He only needed half a step to beat me, which he usually did. He was the quintessential Celtic – unselfish and loyal – and through the players’ union he helped to make the game more just by ending the reserve clause.
“The only thing he loved more than the game was his family. He’ll always be with them,” said Bradley.
–Staff and Field Level Media reporting