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13-time NBA All-Star
John Joseph Havlicek was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, on April 8, 1940. At Bridgeport (Ohio) High School, he starred in basketball, baseball, and football, and was an All-State selection in all three sports. A highly recruited quarterback who could throw the ball 80 yards, he chose Ohio State, but did not play football. Although he batted over .400 in his freshman year, he focused on basketball for the rest of his college career, averaging 14.6 points per game in three varsity seasons and helping the Buckeyes win the 1960 NCAA Championship.
After his senior season (1962), Havlicek was drafted by both the NFL's Cleveland Browns and the NBA's Boston Celtics. The Browns, impressed with Havlicek's athletic ability and his 6-5, 205-pound frame, tried him at wide receiver. He played in several exhibition games that summer before being released by the team in favor of future All-Pro Gary Collins. He then returned to basketball.
Havlicek made his debut as a Celtic on October 20, 1962, and scored 6 points as a "part-time sixth man forward." He displayed great hustle and tenacious defense through his entire first year, and was an NBA All-Rookie Team selection for 1962-63. He did not, however, impress everyone, as at least one sports writer called him a "non-shooter who would probably burn himself out."
After his first year Havlicek went home and worked hard to improve both his outside shooting and his dribbling. The next season he led the team in scoring, averaging 19.9 points per game, still as a "part-time sixth man." Boston won 59 games in 1963-64 and defeated the San Francisco Warriors in five games for the NBA Championship, and Havlicek made the All-NBA Second Team.
For the next five seasons Havlicek was the best nonstarter in basketball. He came in at either guard or forward and was usually on the court at the end of a game. Along with Bill Russell, he routinely accumulated the most playing minutes among the Celtics during a season, and could be counted on to score 18 to 21 points per game. A classic example of his clutch performing occurred in the seventh game of the 1965 Eastern Division Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. With only five seconds left in the game, he deflected an inbounds pass from Hal Greer to save a one-point Celtics victory. In 1968, during another seventh game against the Sixers in the division finals, he scored 40 points at Philadelphia to help Boston to a 100-96 victory. He also played a pivotal role in the Celtics' seven-game victory over the Los Angeles Lakers for the 1968-69 NBA Championship.
The 1969-70 season was Havlicek's first as a starter. Although the Celtics failed to make the failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, Havlicek led his team in three categories -- scoring (24.2 ppg), rebounding (7.8 rpg), and assists (6.8 apg) -- and ranked eighth in the league in scoring and seventh in assists. In 1970-71 and 1971-72 he averaged 28.9 and 27.5 points, respectively. Despite having turned 30 years old in 1970, he led the league in minutes played for both of those seasons, averaging more than 45 minutes per game.
Boston rolled through the 1972-73 season with a 68-14 record and seemed destined for another NBA Championship, but misfortune struck when Havlicek severely injured his shoulder in the third game of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks. He made a valiant return later in the series, but the Knicks ousted the Celtics in seven games. Prior to the fourth game at Madison Square Garden, the New York fans gave Havlicek a spontaneous standing ovation when he appeared in street clothes. The Celtics returned to the top of the NBA by beating the Milwaukee Bucks for the league title in 1974, and Havlicek was voted NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.
Havlicek had another bout with injury when he tore a muscle in his foot during the 1976 playoffs. The doctor said he could play in the final series only if he soaked his foot in ice water for two hours a day. He soaked his foot four hours a day instead, and finished the playoffs with an average of 25.9 poiunts per game. And, in the pivotal Game 5 of the Finals, he sank a game-saving basket against Phoenix in the closing seconds of the second overtime to force a third extra period. The Celtics ultimately outlasted the Suns, 128-126, and went on to win the championship.
On January 29, 1978, Havlicek announced that the 1977-78 season would be his last. He ended his career, at Boston Garden on April 9, by scoring 29 points.
Regular-Season Games Played 1,270 (a record
at the time)
NBA Championship Wins 8
NBA Encyclopedia www.nba.com
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This page was last updated on November 14, 2018.