The Boston Celtics drafted John Havlicek in 1962, and he played for the team for 16 seasons — eight of them as NBA champions. He was voted one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.
Havlicek died Thursday in Jupiter, Fla., at age 79. The cause of death wasn’t immediately available, but Boston media report he had Parkinson’s disease.
The Celtics released a statement honoring Havlicek:
“John Havlicek is one of the most accomplished players in Boston Celtics history, and the face of many of the franchise’s signature moments,” the statement read. “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.”
During his NBA career, Havlicek scored 26,395 points in 1,270 games. He set Celtics career records for points and games. He was the first player to score 1,000 in 16 consecutive seasons.
Havlicek played in 13 NBA All-Star Games, and was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. And during his college career at Ohio State, he helped the Buckeyes win the 1960 national championship.
For all his outstanding efforts on the court, the 6-foot-5 Havlicek may be best known for his steal during the closing seconds of Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference championship against the Philadelphia 76ers.
He stole Hal Green’s inbounds pass to Sam Jones. As the game ended in a win for Boston, Celtics radio announcer Johnny Most screamed, “Havlicek stole the ball!”
The immortalized play sent the Celtics to a ninth consecutive NBA finals, and Most’s call lives on in highlight reels.
In 1978, when Havlicek retired from the Celtics, his jersey, No. 17, was retired too.
He occasionally returned to Ohio State for reunions of the championship team and Celtics events. His Ohio State number was retired during ceremonies in the 2004-2005 season.
Havlicek remained in Boston after his retirement and later split his time between New England and Florida.
Former teammates and friends Tom Heinsohn and Bob Cousy told the Boston Herald that “Havlicek had suffered from an aggressive strain of Parkinson’s disease for about the last three years, and that he recently took a turn for the worse.”
The paper reports that according to Cousy, “Havlicek caught pneumonia after a bad fall three weeks ago, when doctors decided to put him in an induced coma. The family Thursday put Havlicek into hospice, and he died shortly thereafter.”
“Havlicek was part of a Thursday night dinner group that always convened at Cousy’s country club in Florida,” the Herald reports. “When Havlicek and his wife Beth failed to show up three weeks ago, Cousy knew something was wrong.”