Celtics legend John Havlicek, a mainstay of '60s and '70s champions, dies at 79


BOSTON -- “Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over!”

One of the most iconic moments in Boston Celtics lore, no one will ever forget the call in the 1965 NBA Eastern Conference Finals made by announcer Johnny Most or the player who made a play for the ages, John Havlicek. 

Havlicek, the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer (26,395 points) and one of the most decorated players to ever don a Celtics uniform, passed away on Thursday. 

He was 79. 

The Celtics released the following statement upon announcing Havlicek's passing:

John Havlicek is one of the most accomplished players in Boston Celtics history, and the face of many of the franchise’s signature moments. He was a great champion both on the court and in the community, winning 8 NBA championships and an NBA Finals MVP, while holding Celtics career records for points scored and games played. Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, he is enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame and his retired #17 hangs in the Garden rafters. His defining traits as a player were his relentless hustle and wholehearted commitment to team over self. He was extraordinarily thoughtful and generous, both on a personal level and for those in need, as illustrated by his commitment to raising money for The Genesis Foundation for Children for over three decades through his fishing tournament. John was kind and considerate, humble and gracious. He was a champion in every sense, and as we join his family, friends, and fans in mourning his loss, we are thankful for all the joy and inspiration he brought to us.

A 16-year NBA veteran, all with the Celtics, Havlicek was one of the central figures in the Celtics’ rise to prominence in the NBA, having been a mainstay on eight championship teams (1963-1966; 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976) in addition to being named NBA Finals MVP in 1974 and a 13-time All-Star.

In addition, he was one of the NBA’s first “Sixth Men” standouts, which would later prove to be one of the many ways this future Hall of Famer revolutionized the game. 

His No. 17 Celtics jersey was immediately retired and hung in the Boston Garden rafters upon his enshrinement in the Hall in 1984. 

The first NBA player to score 1,000 points in 16 consecutive seasons, “Hondo” was best known as a tireless worker who was in constant motion on the floor, making it challenging for foes to keep up with him. 

Said fellow Celtics legend, and his former teammate and coach, Tommy Heinsohn: “He's still the all-time leading scorer, isn’t he, with the Celtics? And justifiably so. He gets lost in the brouhaha over the [eras around him]… He became a total star."

Heinsohn's broadcast partner, Mike Gorman, the voice of the Celtics for 37 years,  remembered Havlicek the man, as well as the player.

"I cannot come up with words to describe what we lost with the passing of John Havlicek," Gorman said. "I can only assure you that everything you hear or read about what a genuinely good man he was is true. He was what we hope our heroes can be."

Celtics legend Bill Russell paid tribute to his former teammate with this tweet:


In many ways, his play would be the template for generations of Celtics who came after him to try and emulate. 

Selected with the seventh overall pick in the first round out of Ohio State in 1962, Havlicek was also a such a good athlete that he was also talented enough to get drafted by the NFL's Cleveland Browns. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver tweeted out this statement after Havlicek's passing:

Here’s a list of Havlicek’s numerous honors and accomplishments: 

  • 8-time NBA champion (1963–1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976)
  • NBA Finals MVP (1974)
  • 13-time NBA All-Star (1966–1978)
  • 26,395 points (franchise record)
  • 4-time All-NBA First Team (1971–1974)
  • 7-time All-NBA Second Team (1964, 1966, 1968–1970, 1975, 1976)
  • 5-time NBA All-Defensive First Team (1972–1976)
  • 3-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1969–1971)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (1963)
  • No. 17 retired by Celtics (1984)
  • NCAA champion, Ohio State (1960)


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