When you pair stamina and smarts.
Growing up in Lansing, Ohio, his family lived on a busy highway; so his parents, fearful of traffic, refused to let him have a bicycle. He ran to keep up with his friends and years later credited that for his famous stamina. Havlicek’s nonstop running on the court had his winded opponents complaining from start to finish over his 18 seasons.
Nicknamed “Hondo” by a childhood friend who was reminded by Havlicek’s strong, stoic personality of John Wayne’s character in the 1953 movie of the same name.
Best known for a play in Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference finals, tipping away an inbounds pass from Philadelphia’s Hal Greer for Chet Walker with five seconds left. Boston’s 110-109 lead held up at the Garden, with the Celtics’ legendary radio broadcaster Johnny Most immortalizing the moment with his “Havlicek stole the ball!” call.
Teamed with Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas and future coach Bobby Knight on the Ohio State team that won the NCAA championship in 1960 and reached the championship game the next two years. A contract squabble before his rookie season in the NBA prompted Havlicek to try out as a wide receiver with the Cleveland Browns. He was a late cut, then joined Boston and would go on to win the first of his six rings with Russell and eight overall.
Credited with solidifying the Celtics’ famous sixth man role, playing off the bench as a small forward and shooting guard for most of his first seven seasons. “Best all-around player I ever saw,” said Russell, the teammate who also coached Havlicek for three seasons from 1966-69.
In 1980, he was named to the NBA 35th Anniversary All-Time Team. In 1983, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1996 he was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Upon his retirement in 1978, Havlicek had scored 26,395 points and still ranks as the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer. He also grabbed 8,007 rebounds, recorded 6,114 assists and ranks in the Celtics' top 10 in both the regular season and playoffs in nine different categories.
Scored 29 points at age 37 in his final NBA game. At halftime, in a ceremony honoring Havlicek, Celtics GM Red Auerbach said, “If I had a son like John, I’d be the happiest man in the world.”