Friday, April 26, 2019

Remembering John Havlicek


I stopped caring so much about NBA basketball when Magic Johnson retired from the game for the third and final time in 1996. From a personal hero standpoint, I had no one else to root for. Larry Bird had already retired and so had Issel and Gilmore.

Growing up in the late sixties and all through the seventies it was routine for my family to attend church on Sunday morning. After lunch, our attention turned to the television set where there was almost always a Celtics game on, and that's where I became a big fan of Hondo. John Havlicek. Number 17.

Havlicek died Thursday night, April 25, 2019 at the age of 79. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

It's funny because I always thought Havlicek looked more like a lumberjack then he did a basketball player. At 6'5 he was a small forward who sometimes played the shooting guard position, but he never slowed down. He never stopped running. His relentless hustle is what attracted me to his style of play.

Havlicek played 16 seasons in the NBA, all of them with the Celtics. He was one of the central figures in the Celtics’ rise to prominence and was considered a mainstay on eight championship teams (1963-1966; 1968, 1969, 1974 and 1976). Havlicek averaged 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.2 steals over his career. He is the Celtics all-time leader in points scored and games played, ranks second in assists and fifth in rebounds. In addition, he made 13 All-Star teams and was an 11-time All-NBA selection before entering the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. The NBA named him to its list of the 50 greatest players to play in the league. His No. 17 is forever enshrined in the Garden rafters.

"HAVLICEK STOLE THE BALL"

Havlicek was involved in one of the NBA's most iconic plays of all time on April 15, 1965, during the Eastern Conference final playoff series between the Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics were clinging to a 110-109 lead with five seconds remaining when Bill Russell’s inbounds pass from under the 76ers’ basket hit a guide wire overhead, giving the 76ers the ball and a chance to win the series. Guarding Chet Walker in the area near the free-throw line, Havlicek began silently counting off the five allotted seconds that 76ers had to inbound the ball. At the count of four, he peeked back to see that the ball had just been tossed in his direction. Havlicek reached and tipped the pass to teammate Sam Jones, who then dribbled out the clock to secure the victory for Boston, setting off pandemonium in Boston Garden. The play was immortalized by Celtics’ radio broadcaster Johnny Most, whose call “Havlicek stole the ball!” became enshrined in every highlight reel of the Celtics’ glorious history.

The Celtics issued a statement following his passing. It read, “(Halicek's) defining traits as a player were his relentless hustle and wholehearted commitment to team over self...he was a champion in every sense."

The basketball star was described by the team in a statement as "one of the most accomplished players in Boston Celtics history, and the face of many of the franchise's signature moments."

So long Hondo, thanks for the memories!

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