You’d be hard pressed to find a player who was more successful over a longer period of time than John Havlicek. He won NBA titles 13 years apart. Sure it was with the same franchise, but they were vastly different teams. The Boston Celtics of 1963 were a wholly different squad than the Celtics of 1976.
Except for the common thread of Hondo.
His ability to weave together disparate parts was more than threadbare, though. He’s a titan of the NBA having made 13 All-Star Teams, 11 All-NBA Teams, and eight All-Defensive Teams during his career in addition to his eight NBA titles. When he retired in 1978, Havlicek was the NBA’s all-time leader in games played, was 2nd in minutes played, was 3rd in points scored, and was 5th in assists dished.
If you had picked Hondo as the NBA’s premier small forward over the league’s first quarter-century, few would have quibbled. He was an all-encompassing force on the court. He hit his jumpers, he drove to the basket, he played staunch defense, he rebounded, he did everything extremely well. And what he did best was simply never get tired. During his final season at age 38 he was diving for loose balls just as recklessly as he was at age 22.
Even in an Old Timer’s Game, Hondo was still recklessly falling over himself in all-out hustle…
But that was in his nature.
The man came to play leaving every ounce he had on the court and, somehow, always seemed to find another gear when needed. When Bill Russell had turned the ball over in the Eastern Division Finals, Havlicek as a Sixth Man “stole the ball” to save Boston’s season. When Russell retired in 1969, Hondo for the next five seasons took his game to another level averaging 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. When the Celtics finally got their title balance back in 1974, Havlicek returned to somewhat terrestrial numbers with 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists for the duration of his career. And even in the 1976 Finals as a living legend, Havlicek had no qualms coming off the bench for much of the series. Of course, despite coming off the bench he was still averaging 41 minutes a game that series
He was blessed to play alongside Russell and Cowens, Cousy and White, Sanders and Silas, but all of those players were just as blessed to play alongside Havlicek. He made the lives of his teammates easier in every situation and deserved every last bit of the raucous ovation he received in his final game as a Celtic. And in that last game, he happened to score 29 points and dish out 8 assists. He could have played for several more years, but a time comes when you just have to hang it up…
Years Played: 1962 – 1978
8x Champion (1963-’66, 1968-’69, 1974, 1976)
Finals MVP (1974)
4x All-NBA 1st Team (1971-’74)
7x All-NBA 2nd Team (1964, 1966, 1968-‘70,1975-’76)
5x All-Defensive 1st Team (1972-’76)
3x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1969-’71)
All-Rookie Team (1963)
13x All-Star (1966-’78)
NBA - 1270 Games
20.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 SPG*, 43.9% FG, 81.5% FT
MPG Leader (1971-’72)
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1962-63 through 1977-78 season)
1st Points, 18th PPG
1st FGs Made
3rd FTs Made, 22nd FT%
3rd Assists, 16th APG
20th Steals*, 28th SPG*
26th Blocks*, 39th BPG*
1st Games Played, 1st Minutes Played
*Stats not kept until 1973-74 season