John Havlicek and Parkinson's Disease: He lived his life like his basketball career...understated

John Havlicek and Parkinson's Disease: He lived his life like his basketball career...understated

Havlicek steals it!
Over to Sam Jones.
Havlicek stole the ball!
It’s all over! It’s all over!
Johnny Havlicek is being mobbed by the fans. It’s alll over!
Johnny Havlicek stole the ball.

When you think about the basketball career of Boston Celtics Hall of Fame legend John Havlicek, the above call, from Celtic’s broadcaster, Johnny Most, is what first comes to mind. He was so much more than that iconic moment.

Havlicek was on the Ohio State basketball teams that made three consecutive final four appearances. They won the national championship in 1960. They lost in the title game the next two years. The star on those teams was Jerry Lucas, who is still considered a college basketball legend. When I did a Google search to confirm the dates of those teams, Havlicek wasn’t mentioned. Understated!

He was such a great athlete that he spent a summer in camp with football’s Cleveland Browns. He left to head to Boston and concentrate on basketball. Btw, Havlicek was also an outstanding baseball player and won all-state honors in all three sports in high school.

Quiz time: Do you know who has played the most game for the Celtics? Bill Russell? Larry Bird? Bob Cousy? NOPE! The answer is John Havlicek.
Quiz time 2: Do you know who the all-time leading scorer is in Celtic history? Bill Russell? Larry Bird? Bob Cousy? Sam Jones? NOPE! The answer again is John Havlicek.
He’s at the top of the list on a lot of other Celtic career stats. Btw, he also has eight championship rings. Only two other NBA players have more, Bill Russell and Sam Jones. One thing that makes Havlicek’s titles more impressive is he did it with two eras of Celtics. After Russell, Jones, Cousy, and others retired, Havlicek won two more championships with Dave Cowens, including one where he was named as the Finals Most Valuable Player.

John Havlicek was a thirteen time NBA all-star. Eleven times he was a first or second team all-NBA selection. Eight times, he was a first or second team all-Defensive team selection. Yet, when we talk about the NBA greats that played in the 1960’s-70, the names that are mentioned first are Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson. Havlicek tends to be much further down the list. I’m not sure why he was so underappreciated. Understated!

After his basketball career ended in 1978, he mostly lived out of the public spotlight. He never had an interest in coaching or basketball management and made a living as a corporate public speaker. You would see him occasionally at a basketball game or a charity outing, but that would be rare. He spent his time with his wife, children and grandchildren, doing the things most of us do. Living family life and keeping on the down-low. Understated!

When I heard of Havlicek’s death, I figured he had cancer or a heart attack. It never crossed my mind that it was Parkinson’s related.

In the six years I’ve been writing this blog, I often write about celebrities with Parkinson’s. I usually find them quickly after they go public with their diagnosis. If I miss it, someone almost always lets me know and wants a reaction to the news. I’ve even written a couple of pieces about athletes with Parkinson’s, one as recently as this month. Havlicek’s name has never come up. Not once.

It’s been a few days since his death and it’s taken until just now to find any information about this. Apparently, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of P.D. three years ago. A few weeks ago, he suffered a fall and developed pneumonia. Sad, but not unheard of in the Parkinson’s world.

Not many knew about this. You want to talk about keeping things quiet and on the down-low, this was it. Understated!

The family response was this:

It is with deep sadness that I, along with our son Chris, daughter Jill, and seven grandchildren, announce the passing of our beloved husband, father and grandfather, John Havlicek. 
John was a proud man of integrity, moral character, and kindness, and was the Captain of our team. 

The entire Havlicek Family thanks you for your compassion during his valiant battle with Parkinson’s Disease.  We would also like to thank the many dear friends and fans for the immeasurable support, respect and love they continue to give to Number 17.

Classy. Respectful. Understated!

There are ten million people living with Parkinson’s Disease. Some of us are very public about how we live with the disease. You wouldn’t believe the amount of blogs that are out there dealing with the disease. There are many more that are living private lives. People go to work, raise their families and do the things most of you do with your lives. You’d never know they have Parkinson’s. It’s the same for celebrities. For every Michael J. Fox, who has dedicated his life to raising money and awareness for Parkinson’s, there’s a John Havlicek, who wants to keep living the best he can without the fanfare. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s why we live here. We make the choice on how we want to live our life. We make the choice on  what works best for ourselves and our families. No judgments. Understated!

Rest easy, Hondo. You were a great one. I know you stole the ball, but you were much than that. You did it your way. Understated!

Related Post: Is there a connection between sports and Parkinson’s Disease

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