Remembering John Havlicek: A Celtic Legend


One of the all-time NBA and Celtic greats, John Havlicek, passed away last Thursday at 79.

On the court, Havlicek had no shortage of jaw-dropping accomplishments. He leads the entirety of the Celtics franchise in points, games and minutes played. He’s second in assists, and top five in rebounds. The Hall of Famer was selected to 13 NBA All-Star teams, and won a championship in eight of his 16 seasons — all spent wearing Celtic green.

His death was first announced by the Boston Celtics Twitter account, which immediately drew reactions from former teammates, players, and current members of the Celtic organization.

Bill Russell was one of the many that took to Twitter to pay respects to John “Hondo”  Havlicek. The two played seven seasons together and won six championships.

Danny Ainge, current general manager and President of Basketball Operations for the Celtics, remembers Havlicek lending a hand when Ainge first started playing for the Celtics in the 80s.

“Things weren’t going great, I wasn’t getting that many opportunities to play,” Ainge said. “He (Havlicek) invited me to dinner, invited me to lunch, invited me to play golf, and just gave great advice and counsel to be patient and work hard.”

The high praise continued later on in that interview, when Ainge stated there is no individual highlight that can possibly define such an outstanding man and player.

The Steal

Of course, if there ever would be one moment on the court that Havlicek will always be remembered by, it’s the iconic steal he made in game seven of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals. That steal advanced Boston to the NBA Finals, where they would eventually take down the rivaled Los Angeles Lakers in five games.

Former Celtic Paul Pierce also payed tribute to the iconic guard, reminiscing on Havlicek handing Pierce the Larry O’Brien trophy back in 2008.

Resilient Work Ethic

His style of play and ceaseless effort inspired so many. Havlicek always brought energy that outmatched everyone else on the floor, and it’s nothing short of a magic trick that he never wore out.

More Praise

It is exactly that type of relentless performance that built on the foundation of what it meant to be a Celtic at the time and what continues to motivate players today. Jaylen Brown, at just 22 years old and in his third NBA season, knows the importance of Havlicek.

“He’s one of those legends that you aspire to be, being a Boston Celtic,” said Brown.

He kept that same attitude even after his playing days were over, and head coach Brad Stevens recalled the first time he met Havlicek during practice.

“As good as he was as a basketball player and as good as the highlights are, and as good as everybody says he was live, he’s just a better guy,” Stevens said. “He’s humble – you would have never known that he was a Hall of Famer and an all-time Celtic. He was just a proud grandad, dad and husband, and just a really good human being.”

Throughout all these interviews and quotes, one thing seems glaringly apparent: Nobody is over-exaggerating, the praise is all genuine and well-deserved. From Red Auerbach claiming “If I had a son, if he was like John, I’d be the happiest man in the world,” to Marcus Smart keeping it simple and calling him a legend, it seems there are no words that can fully embody everything Havlicek did and represented.

It’s Havlicek’s talent, character and moral fiber that enabled his iconic No. 17 to be retired along with all the other Celtic greats. But it’s also those same traits — and many more — that will allow him to always be remembered and missed as one of the all-time greatest people, not players, in basketball history.

About Dylan Corey

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