Soft-spoken and modest aptly describe John Havlicek‘s personality, an interesting combination for the man who is regarded as the best sixth man in NBA history. Nicknamed “Hondo,” John Havlicek combined his running ability and endurance to establish a style of constant movement on offense and defense that frustrated opponents and added to the Boston Celtics’ magic. During his 16 years with the Boston Celtics, coach Red Auerbach described Havlicek as the “guts of the team.” The man who popularized the integral role of the sixth man was a collegiate star at Ohio State. An All-America and All-Big Ten selection in 1962, “Hondo” teamed with fellow Hall of Famers Jerry Lucas and Bob Knight to land Ohio State the 1960 NCAA championship. In 1962, Havlicek was drafted by both the Boston Celtics and the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. After being cut by the Browns in training camp, Havlicek began a celebrated 16-year career with the Celtics.
When Havlicek arrived in Boston, the Celtics were fresh off their fourth consecutive championship, the team was loaded with future Hall of Famers, and it appeared the six-foot-five Havlicek didn’t have a true position in the NBA. His versatility, offensive firepower and crafty play became paramount in Boston winning another four-straight NBA titles (1963-66). In total, Havlicek would win eight championships in Boston. From the day he arrived in Boston, Havlicek was a scoring threat, and became the first player to score 1,000 points in 16 consecutive seasons. His best single season was 1970-71 (28.9). By the late 1970s, Havlicek had become the heart-and-soul and acknowledged leader of the most successful basketball franchise in history.
A 13-time NBA All-Star Havlicek retired in 1978 and his number 17 jersey was immediately retired at the Boston Garden. During his career, Havlicek was named MVP of the 1974 NBA Finals, was named to the All-NBA First and Second Teams 11 times and was an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection five times. Statistically, “Hondo” scored 26,395 points (20.8 ppg, sixth all-time), and played in 1,270 games (fourth all-time). In 172 playoff games, Havlicek averaged 22.0 ppg. Havlicek will forever be remembered for stealing an inbound pass in the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers that preserved Boston’s 110-109 victory. Johnny Most’s legendary call, “Havlicek stole the ball,” remains a classic description of a memorable moment in NBA history. In 1980, Havlicek was named to the NBA’s 35th Anniversary Team and the 50th Anniversary Team in 1996.