Boston Celtics’ John “Hondo” Havlicek passed away on Thursday in Jupiter, Florida, at the age of 79. Although the cause of death was not immediately confirmed, it was revealed Havlicek died after a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease, and more recently pneumonia.
Friend and former teammate Bob Cousy told the Boston Herald that Havlicek had battled an “aggressive” strain of the disease for the past three years, and his condition had recently worsened.
He said Havlicek had a bad fall three weeks ago after which he caught pneumonia before being put into an induced coma be medics. On Thursday he was reportedly put into a hospice, shortly before he died.
Hall of Famer Havelicek was Boston Celtics’ all-time top scorer and won eight NBA championships, four of which came in his first four seasons. Only Bill Russell and Sam Jones won more championships than he did during their careers.
The 6ft 5in athlete competed with the Boston Celtics for all of his 16 NBA seasons. Havlicek, who played 13 All-Star games, was named among the 50 greatest players in the history of the NBA. In 1984, Havlicek was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Havlicek was drafted by the Bolton Celtics in 1962 from Ohio State University where he had played basketball with his roommate, the seven-time NBA All-Star Jerry Lucas. His teammates at Bolton Celtics at the time included stars such as Bob Cousy, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn, Bill Russell and Frank Ramsey.
He won his first NBA title under head coach Red Auerbach. One of the most memorable moments in his career was in Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, when he “stole” an inbounds pass from Hall Greer and tipped it to Sam Jones to help clinch the victory for his team.
Over his career he averaged 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.87 assists per game. In 1,270 games he scored 26,395 points. He was the first to score 1,000 points over 16 consecutive seasons, averaging 28.9 points per game during the 1970/71 season.
According to an official statement issued by the Boston Celtics:
John Havlicek is one of the most accomplished players in Boston Celtics history, and the face of many of the franchise’s signature moments. He was a great champion both on the court and in the community. His defining traits as a player were his relentless hustle and wholehearted commitment to team over self.
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.
Havlicek was born in April 1940 in Martins Ferry, Ohio, and attended Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, Ohio, where he also excelled in baseball and football.
His friends nicknamed him “Hondo” in reference to John Wayne’s 1953 movie of the same name.