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John Havlicek

Wooed By Three Sports

After he graduated, Havlicek was selected as the first round draft pick of the Boston Celtics. There was high interest from other sports as well. Several baseball organizations, including the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Pittsburgh Pirates, attempted to sign him. Although Havlicek had chosen not to play college football—despite repeated entreaties of Ohio State's football coach Woody Hayes—he was also drafted by the Cleveland Browns. Thinking he might like to play two professional sports, Havlicek reported to the Browns training camp in the summer of 1962 where he was groomed as a wide receiver. It was, unfortunately, a position that the Browns already had well-covered and Havlicek was cut just before the season began. Havlicek later called it one of the two big disappointments of his athletic career. The other was not being chosen for the 1960 U.S. Olympic basketball team.

Havlicek had accepted a $15,000 contract to play with the Celtics. He joined them as they prepared for their 1962-63 season. The Celtics, masterminded by coach Arnold "Red" Auerbach, were a team that put a high premium on speed, team play, versatility, and intelligent basketball. Led by Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, Auerbach's formula had proved to be potent. In the spring of 1962, the team won the fourth of what would become eight consecutive NBA titles. Havlicek, with his speed, endurance, ability to play both defense and offense, and sheer desire to win, was tailor made for Auerbach's style of basketball. Not all observers recognized Havlicek's impressive talents immediately. He was considered to big to play guard yet too small to play forward. Curry Kirkpatrick in an article for Sports Illustrated, quoted Cousy's initial assessment of Havlicek: a "non-shooter who would probably burn himself out."


1940 Born April 8 in Martins Ferry, Ohio
1958 All-State player at Bridgeport High School
1958-62 Attends Ohio State University
1960 Ohio State team wins NCAA championship
1962 Drafted by Boston Celtics of the NBA and Cleveland Browns of the NFL
1962 Attends Cleveland Browns training camp
1962 Joins Boston Celtics
1965 Steals inbound pass in conference finals game with Philadelphia 76ers in closing seconds and sends Boston to NBA finals
1967 Marries Beth Evans
1970-71 Averages 28.9 points per game
1976 Surpasses Hal Greer in total NBA games played
1978 Retires from Celtics
1983 Elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Despite any early misgivings, Havlicek later said he was accepted right away by the Celtics. He undoubtedly helped himself arriving in August at Celtics training camp in better physical condition than players who had been working out since the beginning of the summer. Auerbach later told the New Yorker's Herbert Warren Wind of the first reaction he and another coach had to seeing Havlicek play. "We were … flabbergasted at what Havlicek was showing us. Here he was, not having touched a basketball for months and he was far and away the best man on the court." From then on Havlicek had Auerbach's full confidence. His first year he split court time with Frank Ramsey, the Celtics veteran sixth man—a player who did not start, but rather came off the bench to spell others as they tired. Auerbach's system placed great importance on having a sixth man who was capable and versatile. Havlicek was that in spades. Auerbach used him at both forward and guard. Havlicek's success was due more to determination and practice than to whatever innate physical gifts he possessed. He worked hard to develop his ballhandling and shooting. In 1963, his second season, he led the team in scoring. The following year, when Ramsey retired, Havlicek took over the sixth-man role full-time.

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Famous Sports StarsBasketballJohn Havlicek Biography - The Young Ohio Athlete, Wooed By Three Sports, Chronology, Clutch Player, Career Statistics - SELECTED WRITINGS BY HAVLICEK: