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Another Celtic teammate, Kermit Washington, says this: "A lot of people have trouble identifying with the great talents like Dr. J and Kareem and the rest. But they know and love Havlicek because John wasn't born the best. He had to depend on hustle and determination and guts to get through all those years and win all those games. Fans relate to that."
Bob Cousy, risking sacrilege, remembers Havlicek when he came out of Ohio State and joined the Celtics for the 1962-63 season as a "non-shooter who would probably burn himself out." But Havlicek taught himself to shoot the next summer. Of course, this week, just like the Cooz said, Havlicek will burn himself out. Specifically, along about Saturday—when he becomes 38 years old.
Ironically, it was also Cousy who inspired Havlicek's cross-country retirement proceedings. No. 17's first season back there in the '60s was No. 14's last, and Havlicek always was to remember the road trips during which Cousy was honored on his final tour around what was then a nine-team NBA. "I was impressed with the positivity of the end," Havlicek said last week. "I wanted something like that. Of course it is a gate hype. But the NBA has been great to me. It set me up for life. The fans are responsible, and the franchises, too. If I can help out and get some more people in the buildings, I'm happy to do it."
Just a sampling of the encomiums that keep pouring in from his peers manifests how special an athlete Havlicek is (this confounded machine refuses to print "was").
Golden State's Rick Barry: "Havlicek is the only true superstar."
Los Angeles' Jerry West: "The guy is the ambassador of our sport. John always gave his very best every night and had time for everybody—teammates, fans, the press. He is simply the ideal everybody expects an athlete to be."
If you or anybody in your neighborhood has ever heard or read anything bad about Havlicek, you are urged to report whoever is spreading the infamy to police headquarters immediately. Aside from some major philosophical differences with his former teammate and coach, Tom Heinsohn—stemming from Heinsohn's letting Havlicek's close friend and Ohio State teammate, Larry Siegfried, go in the expansion draft of 1970—there is no record of Havlicek uttering a harsh word on any subject.
"The man has lived an extremely clean life," says his onetime roommate and present coach, Satch Sanders. "He has remained untouched by the broadening experiences of the world."