Monday, 15 Jul 2024

Archive 75: John Havlicek

John Havlicek, a legendary player for the Boston Celtics, left an indelible mark on the game of basketball during his 16 seasons in the NBA. Beyond his longevity in the sport and his numerous clutch moments, Havlicek’s greatest accomplishment was his adaptability. He excelled in various roles, from reserve to starter, and from guard to forward. His versatility and expertise made him one of the most well-rounded players in league history.

To fully appreciate Havlicek’s career, let’s examine it in segments. We will explore his early days as a sixth man, his peak as a star player, and his transition into an admired elder statesman. Through this unique video vault, we will witness Havlicek’s incomparable endurance, relive the highest-scoring game in Celtics playoff history, and witness the iconic moment known as “The Steal.”

But before we dive into those details, there’s a question we must ask: Just how much did Boston love John Havlicek?

Havlicek’s career started with two notable characteristics: his proficiency as a sixth man and his seemingly boundless energy. In his second season, he became the leading scorer on a championship-winning team. By his fourth season, he earned his first All-Star nod, which would be followed by 13 consecutive selections. Despite never starting a game early in his career, Havlicek embraced the role of finisher, inheriting it from Frank Ramsey, the first impactful sixth man in NBA history.

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Havlicek possessed a remarkable ability to adapt to the game’s tempo immediately upon entering from the bench. Even as others grew tired, he remained an unstoppable force in perpetual motion. His endurance became the stuff of legends. Did his lungs truly not fit on a typical X-ray screen? Why did Harvard study his exceptionally low pulse rate? Did his stamina come from a childhood without a bike, necessitating constant running? These questions only added to the fascination surrounding Havlicek’s physical and mental fortitude, earning him the title “Celtic Man in Motion.”

To gain a better understanding of Havlicek’s early career, we turn to a 1990 home video feature showcasing his brilliance as a sixth man. Additionally, a 1986 career retrospective sheds light on his incredible endurance.

As the years passed, Havlicek’s career followed a traditional trajectory. He transitioned from a sixth man to a full-fledged star, showcasing his exceptional skills as a forward. From 1969 to 1972, he averaged 26.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game, earning him the first of four All-NBA first-team selections in 1970. He also received five All-Defensive first-team honors, solidifying his status as one of the game’s most complete players.

Speaking of accomplishments, here’s a trivia question: Who holds the record for the most points scored in a Celtics playoff game? Many would guess Sam Jones or Larry Bird, but the truth is, it’s John Havlicek. In Game 1 of the 1973 Eastern Conference Semifinals against Atlanta, Havlicek scored 54 points, a feat that remains unmatched in Celtics postseason history.

One of Havlicek’s defining moments came in 1965, during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia. With seconds left on the clock and the Celtics trailing, Havlicek made a game-saving steal. This iconic play, famously described by play-by-play announcer Johnny Most as “Havlicek Stole the Ball!” solidified Havlicek’s reputation as a clutch performer.

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To truly appreciate the magnitude of that moment, we have the privilege of hearing Havlicek’s perspective in a remarkable video. It provides an intimate look at his clutch performances throughout his career, including his pivotal role in two memorable championship games of the 1970s.

Havlicek bid farewell to the game on April 9, 1978, after letting his fans know about his impending retirement months in advance. As he played his final games, he received standing ovations and accolades from opposing arenas, culminating in a seven-minute celebration during his last game in Boston. Havlicek had become a symbol of the game played the right way and represented a cherished relic from a different era in NBA history.

Imagine for a moment that it’s springtime in 1978, and you have the opportunity to accompany one of the greatest players in history on the day of his final game. You witness the car ride from his home to the Boston Garden, sit courtside during the festivities, and stand on the floor as Havlicek exits for the last time. This historic experience captures the essence of Havlicek’s final game like no other.

Havlicek’s legacy is one of playing the game honestly, with integrity, and giving unfailing effort. He was the last connection to a bygone era, following in the footsteps of Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. A player of sustained excellence, Havlicek’s impact on the sport will never be forgotten.

More on John Havlicek

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FAQs

Q: What made John Havlicek such a versatile player?
A: Havlicek’s ability to excel in various positions, from reserve to starter, and from guard to forward, set him apart. He was not only competent in each role but performed at an expert level. His versatility and adaptability made him one of the most well-rounded players in NBA history.

Q: What is John Havlicek’s most memorable moment?
A: One of Havlicek’s most iconic moments came during Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia. With seconds remaining, Havlicek made a game-saving steal that secured victory for the Celtics. This moment, forever known as “Havlicek Stole the Ball!” epitomized his clutch performance and cemented his place in basketball history.

Q: What is John Havlicek’s scoring record in Celtics playoff history?
A: Havlicek holds the record for the most points scored in a single Celtics playoff game. In Game 1 of the 1973 Eastern Conference Semifinals against Atlanta, he scored an incredible 54 points, a feat that remains unmatched in Celtics postseason lore.

Summary

John Havlicek’s 16-year career with the Boston Celtics left an indelible mark on the game of basketball. Known for his adaptability and versatility, Havlicek excelled in various positions and roles, from sixth man to star player. His endurance and clutch performances solidified his reputation as one of the most well-rounded players in NBA history. From his game-saving steal in 1965 to his record-breaking playoff performance in 1973, Havlicek’s career is filled with unforgettable moments. As he bid farewell to the sport, he symbolized the game played the right way and a treasured relic from a different era in the NBA’s history.