John Havlicek “Hando”
Boston sixth man John Havlicek revolutionized the role of the reserve. During his 16-year career spanning from 1962-1978, “Hondo” carved out one of the greatest careers in Celtics history.
Primarily coming in off the bench, Havlicek laid the foundation for the likes of Manu Ginobli and Lou Williams — bench players that contribute starter’s minutes and scoring, and often close out games. His production rivaled any starter of his era, earning him 13 All Star nods. He averaged 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 rebounds per game for his career.
The Early Career of John Havlicek
Havlicek was one of the earliest examples of a professional caliber multi-sport athlete in American sports. He played baseball and basketball at Ohio State and helped lead the Buckeyes to the NCAA National Championship in men’s basketball in the 1959-60 season. He averaged 12.2 points and 7.3 rebounds that season. Not only was he selected ninth overall by Boston in the 1962 NBA Draft, but he was also drafted late in the NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. “Hondo” even suited up for several preseason games before being released and committing completely to basketball.
At 6-feet 5-inches, Havlicek was able to play guard and forward. The Celtics dynasty was already in full swing when he got there, having won five of the last six titles. “Hondo” was joining an established core of future Hall of Famers like Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones and Sam Jones. He had no problem finding ways to contribute, adding infectious energy to an aging team. He dropped in 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game his rookie year and earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team. That first season in green ended like the four Celtics’ seasons prior, with Boston winning the NBA Championship. Havlicek was limited to about 18 minutes per game in the finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 8.5 ppg.
Embracing his role
A significant changing of the guard came with the 1963-64 season, Havlicek’s second in the league. Longtime Boston floor general Bob Cousy retired and the team was looking for another option to step forward. Havlicek did just that, leading the team in scoring with 19.9 ppg. Despite continuing with his role off the bench, Havlicek was trusted for big minutes and in closing situations. Boston finished the season atop the league, then cruised to a 4-1 Finals victory over the San Francisco Warriors.
Perhaps the most memorable play of Havlicek’s career came in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Philadelphia. With seconds left on the clock, Havlicek tipped the inbound away from the Sixers to seal a 110-109 win. The commentator’s call of “Havlicek stole the ball” is a classic in NBA history.
The Celtics won two more titles in a row, including the 1965-66 title where Havlicek posted a 23-point, 10-rebound average against the Lakers in the Finals.
Havlicek’s best statistical season came in the 1970-71 season, when he averaged a career high 28.9 points. That offensive output wasn’t enough to push Boston to the playoffs though, marking the team’s second time in a row that the Celtics missed the postseason.
The playoff drought didn’t last long as Boston made an Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 1972. Havlicek’s production was beginning to slide some, but he continued to contribute as the team won two more titles. In all, he was an eight-time champion.
Records and Hall of Fame
Havlicek still holds Celtics records for points (26,395), minutes played (46,471), games played (1,270) and field goals (10,513). He is the single-season record holder for minutes played (3,698 in 1971-72) and has the number-two spot (3,678 in 1970-71) as well. In the 1970-71 season, he set the franchise record for points scored in a season with 2,338.
Hondo retired in 1978 and was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984.