Throwback Thursday - John 'Hondo' Havlicek
John J. "Hondo" Havlicek, born April 8, 1940, competed for 16 seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning eight NBA championships, half of them coming in his first four seasons.
In the NBA, only teammates Bill Russell and Sam Jones won more championships during their playing careers. Havlicek is widely considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and was inducted as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. He was a three-sport athlete at Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, Ohio and one of his boyhood friends was Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro.
Havlicek played college basketball with Jerry Lucas at Ohio State University. That team, which also had future coaching legend Bobby Knight as a reserve, won the 1960 NCAA title. He was named as an alternate to the 1960 Olympic Games United States Team.
Havlicek was drafted by both the Celtics and the NFL's Cleveland Browns in 1962. After competing briefly as a wide receiver in the Browns' training camp that year, he focused his energies on playing for the Celtics, with head coach Red Auerbach later describing him as the "guts of the team." He was also known for his stamina, with competitors saying that it was a challenge just to keep up with him.
Nicknamed "Hondo", (a name inspired by the John Wayne movie of the same name), Havlicek revolutionized the "sixth man" role, and has been immortalized for his clutch steal in the closing seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference championship.
In the seventh and final game, played at Boston Garden, the Celtics led the Philadelphia 76ers 110-109 with five seconds left, and only needed to inbound the ball underneath their basket to secure the victory and advance to the NBA Finals; however, Bill Russell's pass struck a wire that hung down from the ceiling and helped support the baskets, the turnover giving the 76ers and Wilt Chamberlain the ball and a chance to win the game—and the series. Hal Greer was set to throw the inbounds pass for the 76ers. Havlicek stood with his back to Greer, guarding Chet Walker.
But as Greer's pass came inbounds, Havlicek spun, leaped and tipped the pass to Sam Jones, leading Celtics announcer Johnny Most to make the most famous call of his career:
"Greer is putting the ball in play. He gets it out deep and Havlicek steals it! Over to Sam Jones! Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over...It's all over! Johnny Havlicek is being mobbed by the fans! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!"