John Havlicek: Eight NBA Championships
It’s been more than 30 years since John Havlicek won his eighth NBA championship with the Boston Celtics, and still today, his records, statistics and legacy seem superhuman. He’s a 13-time NBA All-Star and would eventually enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984.
Known for his prowess on both offense and defense, John Havlicek was gifted with a unique awareness on the court. This awareness was made famous by his clutch steal during the 1965 Eastern Conference Championship, which ended the game in the closing seconds.
It was game seven, and the Celtics were facing the Philadelphia 76ers. Boston led 110-109 and had possession. With only a few ticks left in the game, they needed only to pass the ball inbounds, under their own net, and score to seal the victory.
A win meant a trip to the NBA finals, and a loss meant the end of the season. The play seemed simple, but when Bill Russell’s pass hit a wire that supported the basket, 76ers and star athlete Wilt Chamberlain won possession.
It’s times like this when the best athletes shine. The tables had turned, and Havlicek would soon make the play that would solidify his legacy.
Havlicek was standing with his back to Philly player Hal Greer, who was passing the ball inbounds. In an almost sneaky fashion, timing Greer’s pass without looking, Havlicek quickly turned, jumped and tipped the ball to Celtic’s player Sam Jones, ending the game.
Plays like this made eight-time NBA champion John Havlicek a sports legend. Earl Storm, a veteran referee in the NBA, discussed the event in his novel, “Calling the Shots.” Storm notes that Havlicek’s quick reaction was one of the most impressive plays he saw during his 32 years as an official.
In 1978, the Celtics retired John Havlicek’s number-17 jersey. Nearly 20 years later, he was again commemorated during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. Havlicek was selected as one of the league’s greatest 50 players of all time.