John Havlicek: The Most Underrated Player in NBA History

13 All-Star appearances, 1974 Finals MVP,  7-time 2nd Team All-NBA, 4-time 1st Team All-NBA, 3-time 2nd Team All Defense, 5-time First Team All Defense, league leader in minutes twice, 3 year peak stats of 27-9-8, 26,395 career points, 8 titles, and a perfect 8-0 record in the NBA Finals. If I told you those stats without a name, you’d immediately be thinking that this guy is a legend. He has to be some guy you know. Those accolades speak for themselves. But sadly, no one remembers him. Sure his name is mentioned in records and certain places but it’s just shrugged off as everyone assumes he was a scrub who played in the old NBA. This is a tragedy. The forgotten legend I’m referring to is John Havlicek. See, even his name makes him sound more like a news anchor than the Hall-of-Famer he actually is. Havlicek played for the Celtics for 16 years for the Boston Celtics from 1962-1978, enough to coincide with the Bill Russell dynasty as well as the 70s teams with Dave Cowens and JoJo White. (two other underrated HOF players that I’ll talk about another time) Havlicek just doesn’t look like an athlete. He’s white and in his prime had goofy crew cut as his main hair-do. But trust me, he’s an athlete. In fact, he’s such a great athlete that while at Ohio State, 5 time national champion and hall of fame college football coach Woody Hayes begged him every year to play receiver, but Hondo (Havlicek’s nickname) never played. Even without ever suiting up for a college football game, the Browns took Hondo in the draft and he was the last cut from the team, despite his 4.6 40 time. Hondo was remembered by his peers for two things mainly: His incredible endurance, as he was described to never stop sprinting for one second on the court, and his clutch genes. The 3 main evidences of those clutch genes would be his “Havlicek steals the ball” play in game 7 of the 62′ Eastern Conference Finals against Wilt and the Sixers, his crazy one legged bank shot to give Boston the lead with 1 second left in the double OT thriller vs the Suns in game 5 of the ’76 Finals, and Boston went on to win that game and the series, and his previously mentioned ungodly 8-0 record in the Finals. Just think of how we praise MJ for his 6-0 record, Hondo was even better. And yes, I know that for 6 of his teams he was only the 2nd best player on the team, but that’s still one heck of an accomplishment. Hondo isn’t remembered historically for 3 main reasons: his previously mentioned unathletic looks and name, a style of play in which he never bragged, showed off, or was ever rude to another players, and lastly his era. Oh, the era. His prime was in the 70s, when the NBA’s popularity was at a low and hardly any of the games were televised. Thus Hondo’s legacy was destroyed as no one witnessed his greatness and told stories of it. I hope you now remember him. Hondo, at least, is a top 20 all time player and one of the greatest champions of all time. Please, remember John Havlicek.


One thought on “John Havlicek: The Most Underrated Player in NBA History

  1. nbaeverydaysite

    Great column Daniel. Hondo is the greatest 6th man in NBA History and Eastern Ohio’s greatest basketball player ever.


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