Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy was on the cellphone in January with some excellent news about my request to let Fox Nation be a fly on the wall for certainly one of his weekly dinners with some friends at an Italian pizza and spaghetti joint in West Palm Seashore, Fla.

For over 20 years, Cousy and Richie Guerin, late of the New York Knicks, have been getting along with a few of their previous {golfing} buddies at De Pietros, close to their retirement properties. However Cousy referred to as to tell me {that a} third NBA Corridor of Famer can be becoming a member of us for his or her common Thursday night time dinner membership.

“John is coming,” Cousy stated fortunately however slowly, a contact of hesitation in his voice as he added that might change on the final second.

“John” was the one and solely John Havlicek, additionally a legendary member of the Boston Celtics. The well-known 1965 recreation the place “Havlicek stole the ball!” — to cite the heart-stopping name by broadcaster Johnny Most — preserved a giant Celtics playoff win and nonetheless echoes a long time later.

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John Havlicek

John Havlicek
(1973 Concentrate on Sport)

That play is getting particular consideration this week as a result of Havlickek abruptly died Wednesday at age 79 in Jupiter, Fla.

The assembly Cousy arrange for Fox Nation in February, which turned one of many first episodes of “Ed Henry’s Entrance Row Seat,” was certainly one of Havlicek’s final interviews.

Cousy was halting a bit on the cellphone about whether or not his pal would make an look as a result of Havlicek was coping with Parkinson’s illness just lately. He was not at all times feeling as much as becoming a member of the weekly boys’ membership to reminisce in regards to the glory days.

That’s why I used to be elated when Havlicek’s spouse Beth drove him to the restaurant. Whereas the person who was as soon as recognized for his stamina on the court docket might not drive himself round, I keep in mind my first glimpse of John displaying off a broad smile from the passenger seat as certainly one of his buddies helped him out of the automotive gingerly.

Whereas his step had slowed, John was delighted he was getting an opportunity to have a slice of pizza with a bunch of his friends plus a reporter fortunate sufficient to tag alongside.

He laughed heartily as he recalled Guerin, a former Marine, warning two guys to cease messing with him at a bar after an exhibition recreation.

“I keep in mind going into the restroom and there have been a few guys laying on the ground and I stated, ‘What occurred?’” Havlicek recalled. “They stated, “(Guerin) got here in right here and knocked the hell out of us.’”

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‘Bunch of previous jocks’

All three former gamers tried to downplay their appreciable abilities on the precise basketball court docket, with Cousy joking they had been only a “bunch of previous jocks” munching on an off-the-cuff Italian meal in a nondescript West Palm Seashore procuring heart.

They’re an entire lot extra than simply some retired athletes. For the entire acclaim Michael Jordan will get for having six championship rings from his days with the Chicago Bulls, and deservedly so, Cousy matched him by successful six rings within the 1950s and 1960s. Havlicek truly bought eight rings within the 1960s and 1970s, two greater than the mighty Jordan.

FILE - In this Jan. 8, 1970 file photo, Boston Celtics' John Havlicek (17) protects ball with his body from Atlanta Hawks' Walt Hazzard (42) during an NBA basketball game in Boston. (Associated Press)

FILE – On this Jan. 8, 1970 file photograph, Boston Celtics’ John Havlicek (17) protects ball together with his physique from Atlanta Hawks’ Walt Hazzard (42) throughout an NBA basketball recreation in Boston. (Related Press)

But Cousy’s first annual paycheck was simply $9,000, whereas Havlicek landed $15,000 as a rookie. He expressed no bitterness to me, regardless of right this moment’s gamers touchdown thousands and thousands of {dollars} a season and flying between completely different cities in non-public jets moderately than heading to video games by bus, prepare, or industrial aircraft.

“One yr I feel I averaged 46 minutes (per recreation) and thought nothing of it,” Havlicek stated matter-of-factly of the 48-minute video games. “However right this moment they get their relaxation. They usually journey very nicely.”

Cousy was generally known as a wizard of a ball handler with epic passing skills. He’s nicely into his 90’s now, so he solely overlapped with Havlicek for one season within the 1960s, although that one yr collectively left a deep impression with Cousy.

“John was the very best finisher I performed with in 13 years,” Cousy instructed me. “Once you completed the best way John did, give him the ball on the proper time, the ball is within the rattling gap.”

“John was the very best finisher I performed with in 13 years. Once you completed the best way John did, give him the ball on the proper time, the ball is within the rattling gap.”

— Bob Cousy, Celtics teammate of Havlicek

Havlicek was so good that one other Celtics legend who secured a file 11 championship rings, Invoice Russell, referred to as Havlicek the “greatest all-around participant I ever noticed.”

That grit was solidified in one of the crucial iconic performs in sports activities historical past, when Most — the Celtics’ grizzled play-by-play man — actually screeched into his microphone: “Havlicek steals it! Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It’s throughout. Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!”

“Greatest all-around participant I ever noticed.”

— Invoice Russell, Celtics nice, speaking about Havlicek

It occurred April 15, 1965, when the Celtics had been locked in a decent, decisive seventh recreation of the Jap Convention finals. Russell made a uncommon mistake, when his inbounds go hit a information wire close to the basket. That gave the ball again to Philadelphia, down by only one level, and some seconds left on the clock to attain the successful basket.

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Philadelphia’s Hal Greer tried to inbound the ball to star teammate Chet Walker. Walker was guarded by Havlicek, who instructed me that underneath stress he simply saved fascinated with recommendation the famed Celtics coach Purple Auerbach had preached.

“Purple at all times stated, ‘Attempt to discover an edge, no matter you’re doing,’” Havlicek instructed me. “And I’m pondering, ‘What can I do to get an edge on this scenario?’ So I stated the one factor I can do is, once they give Hal Greer the ball to inbound it, I’m going to depend to 5: ‘One-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three … ’”

“Purple at all times stated, ‘Attempt to discover an edge, no matter you’re doing.’ And I’m pondering, ‘What can I do to get an edge on this scenario?'”

— John Havlicek

FILE - In this Wednesday, June 4, 2008, file photo, NBA legend John Havlicek holds the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy at Manchester Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, N.H. (Associated Press)

FILE – On this Wednesday, June 4, 2008, file photograph, NBA legend John Havlicek holds the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy at Manchester Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, N.H. (Related Press)

Havlicek knew that by the foundations, Greer had solely 5 seconds to get the ball safely inbounds or the Celtics would regain possession, so he pounced after counting one-thousand three.

“The ball had nonetheless not damaged the aircraft to play,” stated Havlicek. “So on one-thousand 4 I had my eye on the ball and on Hal Greer. However at one-thousand 4 I took an even bigger peek and it was coming by way of the air, and I knew I might get a hand on it.”

He bought a hand on it, and stole the ball. It was an intangible that might not be taught — and by no means confirmed up within the statistics.

“He did plenty of issues that weren’t completely appreciated,” Guerin instructed me. “Like one thing like that. The thought course of that went into placing himself into place to make the play.”

“He did plenty of issues that weren’t completely appreciated. Like one thing like that. The thought course of that went into placing himself into place to make the play.”

— Richie Guerin, former New York Knick

Havlicek cherished different reminiscences with Auerbach and Russell, who had a ritual of vomiting within the locker room earlier than a giant playoff recreation, maybe releasing nervous vitality whereas concurrently psyching himself up for the battle.

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When Russell was prepared

Havlicek recalled one massive recreation the place the Celtics had been already out of the locker room and now on the ground taking observe photographs proper earlier than the opening tipoff. Unexpectedly, Auerbach ordered the gamers off the ground and again to the locker room.

“Now the followers are questioning — it is a completely different process,” stated Havlicek. “He have to be going to present them one of many biggest pep talks of all time. So we get in there and all people sits down and we’re one another to suppose — what’s he going to give you now?”

Auerbach barked at Russell, demanding to know if he had puked but. The star heart stated no.

“He stated, ‘We’re not going out till you throw up,’” Havlicek quoted Auerbach.

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Cousy interjected: “We knew Russ was prepared once we’d hear the dry heaves. And you can hear ’em as a result of the locker rooms had been the scale of this desk in nowadays. … so yeah when Russ threw up we used to say, ‘Oh wow, he’s come to play.’”

Then Cousy grew extra critical as he recalled wishing he had been extra welcoming of Russell, an African-American participant, of their early days collectively. He talked of writing Russell a heartfelt letter about this after some soul looking, Cousy joking that each previous man ought to work on a “to-do listing earlier than that massive basketball court docket within the sky” comes calling.

Little did we all know that it was inside a few months that the decision can be coming for Havlicek, who was usually modest as he recalled that well-known theft of the basketball.

“It’s one of many ones that form of nonetheless lives on, even 52 years later,” Havlicek stated, the pressure of Parkinson’s noticeable in his delicate voice and hunched determine on the desk.

Besides there is no such thing as a “form of” in relation to that play — or the person himself. John Havlicek’s legacy of hustle and dedication will dwell on one other 52 years and past.

This New York man is glad to have shared a pepperoni pizza — and some tales — with certainly one of Boston’s most interesting.

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