John Havlicek, the understated superstar who transformed an off-the-bench role into a Hall of Fame career and became the all-time leading scorer with the Boston Celtics, died on Thursday in Jupiter, Florida. He was 79.
Every one of Mr. Havlicek’s 16 seasons was spent in a Celtics uniform, 13 of them as an all-star. Throughout, he set league records for games played (1,270) and consecutive 1,000-point seasons (all 16), as he played across Celtic dynasties. He was known for his huge lungs and an epic work ethic, constantly hustling the floor quarter after quarter and honing his skills long beyond when other basketball players hit the point of retirement.
“Havlicek stole the ball,’’ is still one of the great rallying cries in sports history, shouted by announcer Johnny Most and quietly repeated by countless numbers of aspiring players in pickup games across the region for years after.