Monday, April 08, 2013


To Praise a Thief

I was watching a Boston Celtic game the other day and I heard Tom Heinsohn comment that it was the 73rd birthday for John Havlicek. It stunned me for a moment, because the thought of John Havlicek as an aging 73 year old didn’t compute.
John was one of the greatest basketball players to ever suit up and he certainly was the all time leader in stamina. He could wear an opponent down by his perpetual motion, both on offense and defense. He could shoot in the clutch, play in-your-shirt defense, rebound, block shots, pass, play guard or forward, you name it.
He is immortalized in Boston. Here is an account of the play from the 1965 Eastern Conference finals called by radio announcer Johnny Most.
In the seventh and final game, played at Boston Garden, the Celtics led the Philadelphia 76ers 110-109 with five seconds left, and only needed to inbound the ball underneath their basket to secure the victory and advance to the NBA Finals; however, Bill Russell's pass struck a wire that hung down from the ceiling and helped support the baskets, the turnover giving the 76ers and Wilt Chamberlain the ball and a chance to win the game—and the series. Hal Greer was set to throw the inbounds pass for the 76ers. Havlicek stood with his back to Greer, guarding Chet Walker.
But as Greer's pass came inbounds, Havlicek spun, leaped and tipped the pass to Sam Jones, leading Celtics announcer Johnny Most to make the most famous call of his career:
"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!"

Happy birthday, John, you famous thief, you.

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