Basketball Wiki
John Havlicek
John Havlicek.jpg
Havlicek in the 1960s.
No. 17
Position: Small Forward / Shooting Guard
League: NBA
Personal information
Full name: John Joseph Havlicek
Born: April 8, 1940
Martins Ferry, Ohio
Died: April 25, 2019 (aged 79)
Jupiter, Florida (79 years)
Nationality: Flag of the United States.png American
Physical stats
Listed height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Listed weight: 203 lbs (92 kg)
Career information
High school: Bridgeport
(Bridgeport, Ohio)
College: Ohio State (1959–1962)
NBA Draft: 1962 / Round: 1 / Pick: 7th
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career: 19621978 (16 years)
Career history
19621978 Boston Celtics
Career highlights and awards

John Joseph Havlicek (April 8, 1940 - April 25, 2019) was an American professional basketball player who played his entire 16-year career with the Boston Celtics, winning eight NBA championships, four of them coming in his first four seasons with the team.

In the National Basketball Association (NBA), he is one of four players to have won eight championships in their playing careers; only teammates Bill Russell and Sam Jones won more, with 11 and 10 championships respectively. Havlicek is also one of three NBA players with an unsurpassed 8–0 record in NBA Finals series outcomes. Havlicek is widely considered to have been one of the greatest players in the history of the game and was inducted as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984.

Early life

Havlicek was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, where his parents ran a general store. He was of Czech and Croatian descent, from his father and mother respectively. Havlicek was a three-sport athlete at {w|Bridgeport High School (Bridgeport, Ohio)|Bridgeport High School}} in Bridgeport, Ohio, where he was a boyhood friend of Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.

Collegiate career

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. Havlicek was named as an alternate of the 1960 United States national team that competed in the 1960 Summer Olympics.

Professional career

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, with head coach Red Auerbach later describing him as the "guts of the team." He was also known for his stamina, with competitors saying that it was a challenge just to keep up with him. Havlicek was a swingman who could play in either the guard position or the forward position.

Nicknamed "Hondo" (a nickname inspired by the 1953 movie of the same name starring John Wayne), Havlicek revolutionized the "sixth man" role in the NBA during his early years coming off the bench for the Celtics.

Havlicek has been immortalized for his clutch steal in the closing seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference championship. 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, and only needed to inbound the ball underneath their basket to secure the victory and advance to the 1965 NBA Finals; however, Bill Russell's pass struck a wire which was hanging down from the ceiling and helping to support the baskets, the turnover then giving the 76ers and Wilt Chamberlain the ball and a chance to win the game and the series. 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. Veteran referee Earl Strom, who wrote this game action 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. Announcer Johnny Most's call of "Havlicek stole the ball!" was dubbed by the NBA as "the most famous radio call in basketball history."

In Game Five 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. He almost replicated his performance in Game Seven, as he recorded 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.

The Celtics won the 1974 NBA Championship and Havlicek was named NBA Finals MVP.

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. However, Havlicek's shot went in with one second left, and Phoenix was allowed one final shot after Jo Jo White converted a technical foul shot for Phoenix's illegal timeout. Gar Heard scored for Phoenix to force the game's third overtime. The Celtics went on to win the game in triple overtime.

When he retired after the 1977-78 season, Havlicek finished his career as the Celtics all-time leading scorer, a distinction he still held at the time of his death in 2019. Besides his prolific scoring, he was also well-regarded for his defensive skills. Havlicek was named to eight NBA all-defensive teams, and was known for his ability to harass ballhandlers and get steals. He finished his career with eight NBA championships and was named to 13 all-star teams during his 16-year career.


A 13-time NBA All-Star, Havlicek retired in 1978 and his number 17 jersey was immediately retired by the Celtics. At the time of his retirement, Havlicek was the NBA career leader in games played (a mark surpassed in 1984 by Elvin Hayes and third in points behind Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. Havlicek also retired as the NBA career leader in field goal attempts (later surpassed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and missed field goals (later surpassed by Kobe Bryant).

In 1980, Havlicek was selected as one of the league's greatest players by being named to the NBA 35th Anniversary Team. In 1984, Havlicek became a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 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. He was also named the 14th best player of all-time in Bill Simmons's The Book of Basketball. In October 2021, Havlicek was honored as one of the league's greatest players of all time by being named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.

Havlicek is the Celtics' all-time leader in points, scoring 26,395 points (20.8 points per game, 16th all-time in points scored in the NBA), and playing in 1,270 games (30th all-time). He became 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.

The Bridgeport High School Gymnasium was renamed the "John J. Havlicek Gymnasium" in January 2007. He shares the honor with National High School Hall of Fame member Frank Baxter, a longtime coach at Bridgeport High School. The court is named after Baxter. Fellow Hall of Famer Chris Mullin wore number 17 as a tribute to Havlicek. In 1974, Havlicek received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.

Longtime Celtics teammate Bill Russell once described Havlicek as "'the best all-around ballplayer [he] ever saw'".

Post-NBA years

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.

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".

Personal life

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. Chris Havlicek attended the University of Virginia on a basketball scholarship in the early 1990s. Jill Havlicek married former Major League Baseball outfielder and coach Brian Buchanan.

Havlicek had Parkinson's disease during his last years. He died on April 25, 2019, in Jupiter, Florida, seventeen days after his 79th birthday.

See also