John Havlicek: An Appreciation

John Havlicek: An Appreciation

John Havlicek is the reason I fell in love with basketball. I was 10 years old when “Hondo” and the Celtics upended the mighty Milwaukee Bucks in the 1974 NBA Finals. It was, is, and always will be my greatest sports memory. Yes, greater than covering four Red Sox World Series wins, nine Patriots' Super Bowl appearances and two Celtics' NBA Finals.

As a kid, everything was pure about sports. Of course, growing up to work in this business of sports media, that purity becomes quickly diluted by the reality that professional athletes are flawed and very, very human.

John Havlicek is my one exception.

One night, I left the Garden to walk over to the Ace Ticket studio to co-host Celtics Postgame Live with Donny Marshall, when I heard a soft and friendly voice say, “Hi, Gary.” You could say the voice was pure.

I turned to see it was my boyhood hero, John Havlicek. I was around the Celts quite bit but had never had the pleasure of running into Hondo. Now, I have been fortunate enough to interview Ted Williams, Larry Bird, Tom Brady, Kevin Garnett and talk rinkside with the greatest hockey player of all-time, Bobby Orr. However – none of those experiences came close to meeting John that night.

We walked and talked as he told me he despised the 3-point shot. Of course, he did! It wasn’t pure. It wasn’t John Havlicek basketball. Let’s face it, the THREEEEE…is lazy hoop. Knock down a few of those babies and you don’t have to work as hard. John loved to work, and he could run forever. I often wonder how he would have done in the Boston Marathon.

No one played the game with a greater understanding of motion that Hondo. Cut, screen, roll, slide, head fake, pull up, fill the lane, fast break, left hand, right hand and on and on and on.

Havlicek didn’t need the 3-pointer to make it to the Hall of Fame. Think about Larry Bird without the 3-point shot or Hondo with it. To me, that would’ve been the great equalizer.

Other than the 3-ball, two other advantages Bird had over John were four inches in height (6-9 to 6-5), and the fact the NBA was much more popular in the '80s than the '70s. Do not tell me that.

Havlicek was not as good as Bird if you did not watch Hondo play seasons of basketball as I did. I will tell you this: Defensively, Larry couldn’t carry John’s jock. Cedric Maxwell, who played with both, will back me up on that.

The Celtics have lost a great one and a pure one. No one was purer on the parquet than John Havlicek.

R.I.P., Hondo.

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Joe Harris calls Jayson Tatum Team USA's 'best player' from 2019 FIBA World Cup

Joe Harris calls Jayson Tatum Team USA's 'best player' from 2019 FIBA World Cup

The Boston Celtics had a prominent presence on Team USA during the summer of 2019. The squad that competed for the FIBA World Cup title featured four members of the Celtics: Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.

While the team lost early in the tournament and snapped a historically-long undefeated streak for Team USA via an exhibition loss to Australia, the group did have some nice moments. And it's worth noting that one Team USA player thought a Celtics player shined brightest of all during the tournament.

As Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Harris explained, he thought Tatum was the best of the bunch for the USA squad.

“I thought Jayson was probably the best player on our team this summer,” said Harris at NBA's All-Star weekend, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “Obviously there were a lot of talented guys there. Unfortunately he got hurt halfway through our trip, but he was leading us in a lot of different areas. It wasn’t this huge statistical thing, I think it was more the presence that he had. What I saw, what he brought every day to practice. It was one of those things where he is super young, but he didn’t act like it, he didn’t play like it, and I could’ve told you this summer that he’d have a pretty good chance to be here today as an All-Star.”

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Tatum only played in two games for Team USA after suffering a sprained ankle, but he did average 24.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. That closely mirrors the 22.4 points and 6.9 boards that he has averaged so far during the 2019-20 season, his first All-Star campaign. And Tatum only playing in the two wins, not the two losses, is notable as well.

But Harris' point about Tatum having a presence and playing beyond his years may be even more important. If he can continue to develop, keep that presence about him and emerge as a leader, he should turn into a major asset for the C's.

Tatum will look to continue his hot play of late following the All-Star break to help the Celtics become a big-time threat during their run to the postseason. And no matter what happens with the C's, it seems that Tatum is tracking toward becoming a star player at the NBA level.

And his peers, like Harris, are recognizing that.

This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.

Habershow Podcast: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on Luka Doncic, politics

Habershow Podcast: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on Luka Doncic, politics

When did Mark Cuban know Luka Doncic could be a franchise player?

The Dallas Mavericks owner sat down with Tom Haberstroh in a hotel lounge at NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago to discuss scouting, drafting and building around the 20-year-old All-Star.

Plus Cuban revealed what he learned talking basketball with Barack Obama and Donald Trump, as well as his own political aspirations. 

2:22 — When Cuban knew Luka could be a franchise player

8:53 — Why Cuban follows certain players on social media

11:34 — The need to monetize NBA highlights

24:12 — Will Mark Cuban run for president?

25:22 — Talking basketball with Obama and Trump