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THE JOHN HAVLICEK COLLECTION

Red Auerbach apparently knew it at the time, but when the Boston Celtics drafted John Havlicek out of Ohio State in the first round in 1962 (7th overall pick) it may not have been clear to basketball experts across the land that the Celtics were making the perfect choice to join a club that had already established itself as one of the great dynasties in professional sports. In hindsight, sure, we could all figure it out, but the trick was seeing it beforehand. What Auerbach saw and intuitively understood was that Havlicek would be a matchless addition to his veteran team, a consummate team player who could quite literally make a great team even better. Coming from basketball-crazy Ohio and having anchored a national championship Ohio State squad in 1960, “Hondo” brought a ferocity on offense and defense that served the Celtics well in Auerbach’s grand experiment with the role of the “Sixth Man.” Charging off the bench as the first man in the game after the tipoff, Havlicek revolutionized broad NBA strategy with his unique style of play. As a guard and small forward, he was a peerless shooter and relentless defender, attributes that seemingly rubbed off and inspired teammates as the Celtics continued to dominate for the rest of the decade. Despite his unusual role in coming off the bench, he was a prolific scorer almost from the start, ultimately averaging more than 20 points per game for eight consecutive seasons, topped by peaks of almost 29 points per game in 1970-71 and 27.5 ppg the next. But tallying up John Havlicek’s career is hardly a question of numbers – unless maybe you start with 8 – NBA Championships, the third-highest total in history behind his Hall of Fame teammates Bill Russell and Sam Jones. Still, it’s hard not to mention a few other numbers in recounting the 16 seasons that Havlicek wore the Celtic Green and White.

Like the 26,395 points he scored, the most all time for a Celtic, even though he wasn’t thought of as a scorer but more as an all-around force of nature on the basketball court. A 13-time NBA All-Star, he would also wind up with eight selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams. Constantly on the move on both ends of the floor, he amassed more than 8,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists, both figures a tribute to his singular role as a basketball player of multi-dimensional talents. By the time he retired following the 1978 campaign, the Celtics wasted not a minute in hanging his No. 17 jersey up among the other legends at the Boston Garden; the Hall of Fame would welcome him into its ranks in 1984 and a little more than a decade later he would be named to the prestigious NBA’s 50 Greatest Player squad. The awesome nature of the accolades was matched by the seeming inevitability of their being bestowed.

In the end, however, somebody like legendary Boston announcer Johnny Most seems a better choice to weigh in on the impact of the beloved Celtic. In one of the most famous moments in NBA history, the Celtics were clinging to a 1- point lead against archrival Philadelphia with five seconds remaining in the Eastern Conference Final in 1965. Played on a seemingly endless loop every year now for almost a half century, a grainy black-and-white television image flickers across the screen with Most’s excited call chronicling the moment:

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!

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