One of the most famous players to ever play in the NBA, many NBA fans would have seen that one highlight where “Havlicek stole the ball!
It’s all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!”. But he wasn’t about one play, he was a superstar for 16 seasons, playing 1,270 games for the Boston Celtics in the regular season and 172 in the playoffs. He won eight NBA titles, winning during the era of Cousy and Russell in the 1960s as well as being one of their main stars during titles in 1974 and 1976.
Born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, Havlicek went to high school in Bridgeport, Ohio before attending Ohio State University.
He played very well every year in college and finished with career averages of 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He was part of the NCAA championship team in 1960.
The Celtics drafted him with the 9th pick of the 1962 NBA Draft. He was also drafted by the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, in their 1962 draft. Havlicek wasn’t going to be a wide receiver, he did go to Cleveland for training camp and played in exhibition games, he was going to be a small forward and shooting guard in the NBA.
Eight NBA titles, thirteen All-Star games, Finals MVP for 1974, many All-NBA and All-Defensive teams, “Hondo” Havlicek was a great of the NBA. He also came to define the 6th man role. Early in his Boston career, Havlicek would come off the bench and give them energy, points and defense.
For his career, Havlicek scored 20.8 points per game. His rookie numbers were 14.3 points per game and during his best years he had eight consecutive seasons of 20 or more points per game, and that doesn’t include the 19.9 scoring average he had in 1963-64.
Havlicek’s total numbers are amazing. He scored 26,395 points. Showing he could do it all on the court he had 8,007 rebounds and 6,114 assists. Steals were not counted for his career, it is safe to assume that if they were he would have been among the very best in NBA history for that stat.
Called “The Green Running Machine” for the hustle and energy he used out on the court, he was able to get 90 steals in his last season when he was 37 years old, so his numbers a decade earlier when he was at the peak of his game would have been outstanding.
Havlicek certainly played with many greats of the game. His teammates during his rookie year were Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn, Frank Ramsey and K.C. Jones. During their successful 1976 season the Celtics had Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, Charlie Scott, Paul Silas and Don Nelson.
He nearly played long enough to be part of another great era for the Boston Celtics. Havlicek played with Cedric Maxwell in season 1977-78, but retired before Bird got to Boston.
Many basketball players can learn how to play the game by watching Havlicek. He never took a play off, and he was always running hard and hustling.
He accepted the roles he was given, when he was asked to he could play 45 minutes per game as a starter and he also knew how to play a role off the bench. The Celtics had teams full of stars but it was his play that resulted in several of those championship wins.