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John Havlicek.

John Havlicek: Looking back at the greatest steal in NBA history

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John Havlicek is one of the most decorated players in NBA history. No conversation about the best men to ever grace the hardwood would be complete without mentioning the Boston Celtics legend. 

He was part of the all-conquering franchise in the late 1960s and continued to enjoy relative success through the first half of the 1970s. 

Along with teammates Sam Jones and Bill Russell, he is one of the winningest players ever, collecting eight championships throughout his career. The two aforementioned players are the only men to win more titles.

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During his 16 years in Beantown, Havlicek dropped 26,395 points, assisted 6,114 baskets and pulled down 8,007 boards. He was also named Finals MVP once and an All-Star on 13 occasions. He was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1984, but it was never in any doubt. 

Out of all the incredible achievements he had during his career, of which there were many, like his performance against Atlanta in the 1974 Eastern Conference semi-finals - where he connected with 24 field goals to produce a playoff record he still shares today with Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan - there is one moment that stands out above the rest.

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During the height of Boston's dominance and only three years into his NBA career, he produced arguably the biggest play in franchise history that inspired the Celtics to their eighth title in nine years. 

As the series in the East Final of 1965 with the Philadelphia 76ers was tied at three each, the Celtics held a slender 110-109 lead with five seconds on the clock. The forward came up with a play that is still remembered fondly in Masschusates and sent fans in the Boston Garden crazy.

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Hal Greer tried to find Larry Jones with the inbound pass from the under the Celtics' basket, but Havlicek had other ideas and stole the ball in a moment that immortalised him in the City on a Hill. If you listen closely, you can still hear the voice of Johnny Most screaming "Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! It's all over!" in frenzied excitement. 

As Havlicek celebrates his 76th birthday, and just a day before his final game for the famous green and white 36 years ago, there is no better time to appreciate a player who provided so much for the most decorated franchise in history. 

Simply put, the man was an all-around athlete. At high school, he was a three-sport athlete who found his calling with basketball. In the league, he set a number of records and revolutionised the sixth man position into the vital role we see in today's game. 

At the time of retirement, Havlicek held the record for games played, was third in points made and was also the leader in all-time field goals attempted - along with missed attempts. He has since relinquished all of the records, but his legacy sure does live on in Boston. 

His number 17 jersey can been seen on display in TD Garden and in 2011 he was named 15th on SLAM's Top 500 players of all-time. To put it simply, we will leave you with a quote from the great Bill Russell:  "He is the best all-around player I ever saw."

Topics:
Eastern Conference
NBA
Boston Celtics
Atlantic Division
Jae Crowder
Isaiah Thomas

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